Dutchman Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors) was one of a number of riders who welcomed Wednesday’s alteration to the Amstel Gold Race parcours, but warned against similar changes to Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix, and the Tour of Flanders.
The Amstel Gold Race organiser said yesterday that the race will not finish shortly after the Cauberg climb, instead having a flat final few kilometres with Cauberg climbed for the final time with 19 kilometres to go.
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“It’s not a classic parcours with the Cauberg,” Terpstra told Cycling Weekly.
“They shouldn’t change real classics, they already fucked up the Tour of Flanders. They tried it with Milan-San Remo, but now it’s a good parcours again. A Classic should be a Classic.”
The organisers only moved the finish of the race to the top of the Cauberg in 2003, with it previously ending with a flat finish in nearby Maastricht, which still hosts the start of the race.
Now, the organiser will take the race over the Cauberg for the last time at 19 kilometres to race. The final will still include the Geulhemmerberg and the Bemelerberg before a flat finish.
“It’s not just 19 flat kilometres to the finish,” Terpstra continued. “You know where Tim Wellens [Lotto-Soudal] attacked last year? From that point, you don’t to the downhill, but straight to the finish. Wellens would have had a good chance if it was that parcours last year.”
“An attack from far could arrive, an escape or a group of 20 cyclists,” said Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida).
“This finish changes many things for the teams. Before, everyone just waited for the Cauberg. I’m happy with it. I went well last year, but this favours me more without the climb to the finish.”
“Normally, I never started in Amstel and now, maybe it’ll suit me, but they’ll have to wait until next year for me,” Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin) said. “I’ll be on vacation. My vacation is already booked in the mountains in Norway. It’s Easter vacation, and it’s the first time in a long time that Easter falls on that weekend.”
Team leaders tended to wait until the base of the final Cauberg to make their move. The organiser said that they “hope for a more open race” now.
“We have enough classics where the sprinters have a chance, and the second part of the classics should be for the GC or climber guys,” explained Jakob Fuglsang (Astana). “As it looks now, it could suit those who did the first part of the classics, guys that can do the hills and sprint.
“Now people will be waiting for the final sprint [instead of the final Cauberg]. And you’ll have less attacking from far out.”
“It used to be a beautiful finish through the fans on the Cauberg,” said former world champion Rui Costa (UAE Abu Dhabi). “They hope to make it more open, but I think it’s still going to be hard because you are doing many hours and climbs beforehand. Now, it’ll be open and more entertaining.”
“I see a hard finish, it’s not given that it’s going to be a group sprint,” added Giovanni Visconti (Bahrain-Merida). “You’ll see the same type of winning cyclists plus a few hard-man sprinters.”
Tradition rules in cycling and anytime changes threaten its foundation, insiders worry. Milan-San Remo organiser RCS Sport briefly added in the Pompeiana climb between the Cipressa and Poggio, but due to road conditions, and many complaints from traditionalists, it changed its mind ahead of the race.
The organisers of the Tour of Flanders, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Il Lombardia play with the races’ formulas slightly over the years. Flanders Classics made the biggest, and most criticised, change in 2012 when it moved away from the Muur Van Geraardsbergen and Bosberg final, instead using circuits over the Kwaremont and Paterberg and finish in Oudenaarde. Many, including Terpstra, considered that a mistake.
“Maybe they should change others now?” continued Costa “Milan-San Remo, they can make it harder, add in the Pompeiana. Right now, we don’t have hard climbs.”
“San Remo is good how it is, let’s not pull out the Poggio or Cipressa either,” said Colbrelli. “Or add more climbs. I’d leave the classics how they are, how they started. But I’m happy with this change.”
“I’m not for changing the Classics, but this is a little touch up,” added Visconti. “And in the past, Amstel had a different formula. There was the sprint with Boogerd and Armstrong… Let’s not change San Remo, Roubaix or the others, though. Classic means classical or traditional, not modern and changing.”