Amstel Gold Race Preview

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He’s on form, he’s on home soil and he’s a past winner but Mathieu van der Poel won’t have it easy here as the hilly terrain and a long list of challengers should make things harder.

The Route: unchanged from last year, 253.6km and all in Limburg, the hilly part of the “low country”. It’s relative as the race rarely gets beyond 200 metres altitude but there are 3,200 metres of vertical gain spread across 33 marked climbs.

One difficulty you don’t see from the profile nor map is the mix of narrow roads and tight corners. Those at the front get to chose their line while anyone beyond, say, 20th wheel is stuck in a cycle of braking and sprinting. This whiplash effect is huge, it’s probably the defining feature of the race and being able to save energy by staying up front helps build the win. Local knowledge and a couple of strong team mates help here, arguably more than the Ronde and Liège.

The climbs are bunched towards the end of the race. The Eyserbosweg with 38km to go is where Tadej Pogačar forced a selection last year, the Keutenberg with 29km left is where he went solo.

The Finish: The finishing circuit is not so technical, a wider road and well-known. It’s via the Keutenberg and then the Cauberg to cross the finish line. Then it’s out into the apple orchards and and the Bemelerberg climb, a soft gradient but sometimes just enough to split the field. Over the top it’s via Mathieu van der Poel Allée and to the finish on a big wide road.

The Contenders
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Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) is on a roll after wins in the Ronde and Roubaix. A past winner here, he seems the obvious pick but the hilly terrain doesn’t suit. It’s hard to see him take a flyer with 40km to go – he might try – and his advantage over others is his sprint. Also while his team have been very solid that’s because they are solid types, this time they’ll struggle to boss rival squads.

UAE come with six riders who could win, and Sjoerd Bax who is going to be busy fetching food and drink for them all. Juan Ayuso is the form pick and while his lean build makes him look like a pure climber he’s won time trial and sprints (pictured winning the Faun Ardèche Classic). Marc Hirschi is a Flèche Wallonne winner but from 2020 and if he’s had plenty of wins since, nothing in the World Tour so far. Many teams will look to UAE to control the race.

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EF Education-Eastpost bring a very strong team. Richard Carapaz is form unknown but building up. Second here last year, Ben Healy was remarkable in the recent Pays de Loire stage race, doing the work of three riders as he towed Marijn van den Berg to the win. Their problem is how to combine their strengths, with Healy not suited to the flat sprint so he’ll have to try and go solo while Van den Berg is on the limit with all the climbing.

Tom Pidcock (Ineos) is back to a race where he was less photogenic than Wout van Aert who beat him to the line and were Tadej Pogačar beat him last year, two podiums in three goes. Previous winner Michał Kwiatkowski has got the race craft and could surprise, if not he’ll be there to guide Pidcock.

Visma-Lease a Bike have a home race and have Tiesj Benoot and Matteo Jorgenson as leaders, both on terrain to suit but at risk of being picked off by rivals in case of a sprint.

Max Schachmann (Bora-hansgrohe) looked himself again in the Basque Country after two seasons of illness and injury, a lot of lows and few highs. Matteo Sobrero should be worth watching too.

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Benoît Cosnefroy (Decathlon-Ag2r La Mondiale) is in form having just won the Brabantse Pijl and with ease, floating across to the breakaway before out-sprinting them. A runner-up here before this showed his challenge as he’s great on short hills but in a flatter sprint things are harder. Basque stage winner Paul Lapeira is in form too and could try a flyer.

Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ) and Romain Grégoire give Groupama-FDJ two good chances, Madouas bravely stated he was all in for the Ronde but never featured while Grégoire looks custom-built for the Ardennes races.

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Lotto-Dstny bring Andreas Kron and Maxim Van Gils. Kron is one of those assassin-type riders with one bullet to fire but he’s capable of a surprise. Van Gils can keep firing, he’s not finished outside the top-10 this season except for Catalunya where it was feared a crash caused a broken wrist.

DSM Firmenich-PostNL race on home soil. Their motto is “keep challenging” only they’re being challenged by a tough start to the season. Warren Barguil brings experience, Kevin Vermaerke has quietly had a good season so far but Oscar Onley looks their best bet, the Scot is climbing with the best.

A hilly race for a punchy Dutch climber? Bauke Mollema (Lidl-Trek) can make a crowd-pleaser move but how to stay away? Mattias Skjelmose has made the Ardennes his goal for the first half of the year but he might prefer Liège next Sunday with more climbing. Andrea Bagioli is one to watch too.

Michael Matthews (Jayco) can get over the climbs and packs a sprint of course but how to convert previous top-10 places into a win? He’s going to struggle to match the best climbers so he’ll have to hope they mark each other out.

Astana have had a dire start to the season but Alexey Lutsenko supplied some cheer this week winning in Abruzzo. He’s resting but the squad looks decent on paper with Samuele Battistella due a big win and backed by Christian Scaroni, Ide Schelling and Anthon Charmig.

IPT have Dylan Teuns and Stephen Williams for the climbs and maybe Corbin Strong as a sprint card to play although if he is there for the finish, so is Van der Poel.

Uno-X bring Tobias Halland Johannessen and new signing Andreas Leknessund, outsiders again.

Soudal-Quickstep are orphans without leader Remco Evenepoel but William Junior Lecerf is promising although converting that into a win on a trick course like this is tough. Mauri Vansevenant can feature, he is always easy to spot thanks to his “pecking chicken” style

Van der Poel
Ayuso, Cosnefroy, Healy
Van Gils, Pidcock, Williams, Hirschi, Bilbao, McNulty
Battistella, Grégoire, Matthews, Van den Berg, Schachmann, Kron

Weather: cloudy and 15°C.

TV: the race starts at 10.45am and the finish is for 4.50pm CEST. It’s on NOS locally and Eurosport for most other territories.

Ardennes? we often label the Amstel an “Ardennes classic” because it’s hilly, not far from the Ardennes and on at the same time as the real Ardennes races. It’s a heuristic but it’s a wrong one. The Ardennes are a western part of the larger Eifel mountain range and are to be found far to the south of this race, think Liège of Limburg. The hills this weekend are mere clay and sand deposits rather than part of a genuine mountain range.

Flanders Gold: this is the last edition of the race as an independent event as the race will be taken over by Flanders Classics next year, although still with Amstel Gold title sponsorship.

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Women’s Amstel: this starts at 10.15 CEST and finishes around 2.20pm with TV coverage from midday onwards. It’ll be a climbing test for Lotte Kopecky and team mate Demi Vollering, they got the 1-2 last year but this week Vollering was dropped by Elisa Longo Borghini in the Brabantse Pijl to make the Italian the form pick with Marianne Vos the local hero. For a good preview, see’s Amstel picks

17 thoughts on “Amstel Gold Race Preview”

  1. It’s difficult to see beyond MVDP for the win, but this is bike racing and anything is possible on such a demanding course. The wind could also play a part if it decides to ‘blow’.

  2. The big question tomorrow will be : where will be the polemica ? After two problems with finish photos, and one with towing-car in front of Pogacar… What’s next ? The four riders in front of Van der Poel declassified because of bad manners ?
    I didn’t know Flanders Classics are about to take the race over. Can we expect VIP tents and changes of the roads for next year (ten loops around Valkenburg to make the tents bankable) ?

  3. It may be (and may not) that this race isn’t as testing as the cobbled events so could bring others into contention. Otherwise very hard to see past MVDP. If Matthews can keep his brainwaves in order he should be thereabouts at the finish.

  4. Its a shame Pogacar isn’t starting to save us from another MvdP walkover. Hopefully everyone will have the brains to take all the climbs as fast as possible.

  5. I feel a bit sorry for this race nowadays. 15 or so years ago I used to think of it as the sixth monument but now it seems a bit of an afterthought on the calendar- or is it that just my perspective?

    • It’s always been the upstart spring classic because it was “only” started in 1966. Also the course feels very condensed, it doesn’t have the range of a bigger race. And there are not as many UCI points on the table.

      But it’s also a fun race with plenty of tactical moments and accessible to many, where else would Van der Poel, Ayuso, Healy, Cosnefroy and Matthews find themselves a prime challengers?

  6. A note from cycling podcast –

    They mentioned Cosnefroy is not riding anything outside of hilly one day races he’s targeting apparently. No Tour etc. His teammate said in the past he’s wasted energy elsewhere for no gain so they’ve taken a new approach.

    Was interested to see how he went and midweek seems to suggest well, I wonder if he might be the surprise of the coming weeks.

    • Yes, Cosnefroy said this over the winter, he and his team know what suits him and as promising as he might be on paper for a team hunting Tour stage wins, grand tours are not his thing. His small problem though is “the Ardennes” are often a target for many riders but only a handful of races in a small window. He and others have to think of other targets like the Olympics, Worlds, the Canada races, Plouay etc.

  7. IR suggests Dylan Teuns as an outsider with a recent second place in La Flèche Brabançonne. Despite that and despite riding for Teuns, Joe Blackmore seemed to finish stronger and I suspect if the strategy had been inversed IPT could have had a victory instead of second.

    Blackmore could – despite the distance – have been an outsider for Amstel too though his Conti status probably excludes him from WT races. Currently high on PCS season’s ranking (and ahead of numerous WT stars) he’s surely due for promotion to the IPT Pro team before another nabs him.

  8. “The Ardennes are a western part of the larger Eifel mountain range and are to be found far to the south of this race”

    Heh, didn’t realize anyplace was far from anyplace else in Belgium and the Netherlands. I guess everything’s relative!

  9. On recent form I can’t see Matthews finishing behind any of the two-star favourites, although Pidcock of course has done very well here in recent years.

    Amstel Gold women’s one of the biggest races thrown away with an early celebration for quite a while. Victory snatched from the jaws of defeat by a champion who has learned and taught every lesson many times over.

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