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After watching some hard racing on Flemish and French cobbles in recent weeks, we now turn our attention to the lumpy Ardennes Classics. Wednesday’s Brabantse Pijl provided a good indication of the riders to look out for in Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race.
The Amstel Gold Race is held in the southern part of Limburg in the Netherlands. The race began as an event to promote the Amstel Brewery and is probably the most important pro cycling event in the Netherlands. The course is tough and littered with road furniture. It consists of 34 climbs, some with gradients as high as 20% (Keutenberg), making the course very selective. The race can be confusing for first-time riders, because the course features a lot of turns and some spots are visited several times throughout the race.
Between 2003 and 2012 the finish was at the top of the famous Cauberg hill, in Valkenburg. This year’s edition is 251.5 km long with the finish moved from the top of the Cauberg to Berg en Terblijt, 1.8km beyond the Cauberg. This new finish is the same as the one that was used in the 2012 UCI Road World Championships.
Philippe Gilbert and Peter Sagan showed on Wednesday at Brabantse Pijl that they will be the ones to watch when the field hits the Cauberg but with the flatter section after the climb, the course is perhaps better suited to Sagan.
Greg Van Avermaet has had the best results for BMC at Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders and could be another one to keep an eye on. Sagan’s teammate Moreno Moser showed at this year’s Strade Bianche that he too can tackle steep finish ramps. The winner of 2012 edition Enrico Gasparotto is in better form than last season (despite being in a collision with a truck yesterday) and he could be a factor along with his teammate Maxim Iglinskiy.
Tom Jelte Slagter of Dutch Team Blanco should also fancy his chances and might try to surprise the bunch with a fast attack on the Cauberg. Other riders to watch include Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE), Thomas Voeckler of Team Europcar and Simon Geschke of Team Argos-Shimano.
The weather is forecast to be a pleasant 18 degrees — a far cry from the near-freezing temperatures we’ve seen in parts of Europe so far this season.
Click here to see the provisional startlist for 2013 Amstel Gold Race. Map and route profile courtesy of amstel.nl.