The Amstel Gold Race this Sunday in the Netherlands kicks off the Ardennes Classics week. The youngest of the three races used to favour sprinters, but recently goes in the way of attacking riders.
Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) won the race last year and started a record run, winning both Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège in the following week. The Belgian was only the second rider in history win all three in one year after Davide Rebellin in 2004.
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The Amstel Gold ends in Valkenburg after nearly 250 kilometres with a sharp 1.2-kilometre rise up the Cauberg. Ahead of the Cauberg, though, the riders face a pretzel-like parcours that circles around the Limburg region and includes another 30 climbs (see climb list below).
The riders will take a good look around because on September 23, the World Championships covers much of the same area before its finish up the Cauberg. The Eyserbosweg, the Kruisberg and the Keutenberg are some of the other key climbs.
Last year, Andy Schleck attacked just after the Keutenberg climb with 12 kilometres to race. Beer-guzzling fans encouraged his move, but his 15-second gap came to nothing on final Cauberg climb. Including the finish, the race covers the Cauberg three times.
Besides the climbs, Amstel Gold is one of the most nervous races due to the abundance of traffic furniture dotting the roads. Positioning is more important in this race compared to Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège later in the week.
Amstel Gold Race 2012: The contenders
Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha)
The Spaniard placed second last year and the top favourite with Gilbert out of tune. So far this year, he has won a similar undulating stage in Tirreno-Adriatico and two in the Tour of the Basque Country.
Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale)
Sagan is on the verge of winning a big one-day race, but it remains to be seen how he recovers from his crash in Brabantse Pijl.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
The Spaniard is one of the fastest sprinters on long courses with uphill finishes, just look to the Willunga stage of the Tour Down Under. He seems to be as good as he was in his golden years despite just coming off a doping suspension.
Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge)
The Australian is enjoying his best year yet with a wins so far in the Tour Down Under and Milan-San Remo. He has that Valverde-type sprint that’s needed to win Amstel. Last year, he placed third behind Gilbert and Rodriguez.
Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing)
On Wednesday in Brabantse Pijl, the Belgian finally started to ride as he did last year. However, he still seems to lack that deadly punch and is bound for a lower podium step.
Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
If the Tour of the Basque Country is anything to go by, the Olympic Champion could win Valkenburg.
Cadel Evans (BMC Racing)
The Tour de France champ said that he will work for Gilbert, but he may be better off working for himself. So far, he is been the only one to deliver the goods for BMC this year.
Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD)
He will lead Italy’s charge, with Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) and team-mate Michele Scarponi maybe making appearances. As a past winner and after a strong Basque Country showing, he’s one the top favourites.
Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky)
He can sprint and climb, so he can win Amstel Gold. He has won two races so far this season, but doesn’t seem brilliant lately and may be suffering from his Paris-Roubaix effort.
Oscar Freire (Katusha)
The Spaniard looked good on Wednesday in Brabantse Pijl and will be eager to show off in front of his former sponsor, Rabobank.
Thomas Voeckler (Europcar)
Voeckler won Brabantse Pijl on Wednesday with a gutsy solo attack. He may follow in Gilbert’s footsteps with a Brabantse-Amstel double.
Amstel Gold Race 2012: The route
256.5km , starts: Maastricht
1. Maasberg (KM 10.7, 245.8 KM to go)
2. Adsteeg (KM 32.5, 224 KM to go)
3. Lange Raarberg (KM 39.5, 217 KM to go )
4. Bergseweg (KM 54.7, 201.8 KM to go)
5. Sibbergrubbe (KM 66.6, 189.9 KM to go)
6. Cauberg (KM 72, 184.5 KM to go)
7. Wolfsberg (KM 93.2, 163.3 KM to go)
8. Loorberg (KM 98.8, 157.7 KM to go)
9. Schweibergerweg (KM 108.9, 147.6 KM to go)
10. Camerig (KM 115.3, 141.2 KM to go)
11. Drielandenpunt (KM 128.3, 128.2 KM to go)
12. Gemmenich (KM 131.1, 125.4 KM to go)
13. Vijlenerbos (KM 134.6, 121.9 KM to go)
14. Eperheide (KM 144.4, 112.1 KM to go)
15. Gulperberg (KM 152.4, 104.1 KM to go)
16. Van Plettenbergweg (KM 155.9, 100.6 KM to go)
17. Eyserweg (KM 157.8, 98.7 KM to go)
18. Huls (KM 162.7, 98.3 KM to go)
19. Vrakelberg-Kruishoeveweg (KM 168.1, 88.4 KM to go)
20. Sibbergrubbe (KM 176, 80.5 KM to go)
21. Cauberg (KM 181.5, 75 KM to go)
22. Geulhemmerweg (KM 185, 71.5 KM to go)
23. Bemelerberg (KM 198.7, 57.8 KM to go)
24. Wolfsberg (KM 215.8, 40.7 KM to go)
25. Loorberg (KM 221.4, 35.1 KM to go)
26. Gulperberg (KM 229.7, 26.8 KM to go)
27. Kruisberg (KM 235.2, 21.3 KM to go)
28. Eyserbosweg (KM 237.3, 19.2 KM to go)
29. Fromberg (KM 241, 15.5 KM to go)
30. Keutenberg (KM 245.5, 11 KM to go)
Finish – 31. Cauberg (KM 256.5)
Click on the map to enlarge in new window
Amstel Gold Race 2012: Teams
Accent Jobs-Willems Verandas
Ag2r La Mondiale
Farnese Vini-Selle Italia
Amstel Gold Race 2012: TV guide
Sunday April 15, 14.00-16.00, LIVE Amstel Gold Race, British Eurosport
Sunday April 15, 21.30-22.30, Amstel Gold Race highlights, British Eurosport
Philippe Gilbert, winner of Amstel Gold Race in 2010 and 2011
Amstel Gold Race: Recent winners
2011 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
2010 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
2009 Sergei Ivanov (Rus) Team Katusha
2008 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre
2007 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner
2006 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC
2005 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi
2004 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner
2003 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Team Telekom
2002 Michele Bartoli (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
Amstel Gold Race: Last year’s top ten (2011)
1. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto in 6-30-44
2. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 2 secs
3. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Sky at 4 secs
4. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard-Trek at 5 secs
5. Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Katusha at same time
6. Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank at same time
7. Bjorn Leukemans (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM at 7 secs
8. Ben Hermans (Bel) Radioshack at 18 secs
9. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 19 secs
10. Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank at 26 secs