Amstel Gold Race: Could this weekend see the first US winner?

A slew of podium options roar into the hilly, technical course across the hilly country of the Limburg region.

Photo: Gruber Images/Velo

Could this weekend see an American rider sprinting first across the finish line at the Amstel Gold Race?

For the first time in a generation, there’s a pack of riders knocking at the door in both the men’s and women’s races. The chances are as good as they’ve been in a long time.

In the men’s race, Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost), Quinn Simmons (Trek Segafredo), and Magnus Sheffield (Ineos Grenadiers) headline the best podium contenders.

In the women’s race, Kristin Faulkner (Jayco-AlUla) and Coryn Labecki (Jumbo-Visma) line up as a pre-race favorites following a string of top results this spring.

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In total, six U.S. women and seven U.S. men are expected to race this weekend in the endless string of hills, sharp corners, and narrow roads that mark the technical, climb-heavy routes.

Leading the way for U.S. ambitions will be Powless, who’s enjoyed a breakout spring anchored by two victories, and top-10s at Milan-San Remo with seventh and fifth at Tour of Flanders. He hit the podium with third at Dwars door Vlaanderen.

“I’ve carried some great form into the spring classics. Let’s see if I can keep it going,” Powless told VeloNews in an interview before his brilliant Flanders debut. “Of the Ardennes classics, Liège would normally the one that suits me the best. The climbs are longer, the final is always tough, but let’s what we can do at Amstel Gold and Flèche Wallonne as well.”

Other U.S. starters include Lawson Craddock (Jayco-AlUla), Kevin Vermaerke (Team DSM), Joey Rosskopf (Q36.5), and Sean Quinn (EF Education-EasyPost), who won his first pro race last month at Coppi e Bartali.

Craddock posted the last top-10 by a U.S. male with ninth in 2018.

Sheffield skipped a title defense at Brabantse Pijl after a rough and tumble spring classics campaign. He was 125th last year in helping teammate Michal Kwiatkowski win. Ineos Grenadiers brings a loaded team also featuring Tom Pidcock, and the team is keen for a big result on the hilly course that more favors the team than the cobblestone courses of the northern classics.

Simmons bypassed the northern classics this year to try his luck across the Ardennes. He did not finish Brabantse Pijl on Wednesday, and hopes to play a role in a strong team also featuring Bauke Mollema, Toms Skujins, and Mattias Skjelmose.

Since the inception of the men’s edition in 1966 , only one U.S. rider — Lance Armstrong with second on two occasions though those results have since been disqualified as part of the USADA case — has finished on the final podium.

No U.S. rider has hit the final podium at Amstel Gold Race Ladies Edition since its debut in 2001, and its return in 2017. Alexis Ryan, now racing at L39ION of Los Angeles, was fifth in 2018 for the best U.S. result in the women’s race.

Faulkner, Labecki leading the way

Faulkner will line up as a podium favorite, and maybe even more. (Photo: Getty Images)

Faulkner is showing top form all spring, and will be among the favorites to challenge SD Worx in the women’s race.

Though she was disqualified in a controversial ruling from her third place at Strade Bianche, Faulkner looks to have the legs to challenge for more than her career-best 15th in 2021.

Jumbo-Visma’s Labecki, sixth in 2017 and ninth in 2022, could also see a podium chance, especially if the race comes down to a reduced bunch sprint.

Other U.S. starters include Makayla MacPherson and Kaia Schmid (Human Powered Health), Veronica Ewers and Krista Doeble-Hickok (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB).

The new course layout favors aggressive, attacking style. It will be tough to beat back the likes of Tadej Pogačar or Annemiek van Vleuten, but to the brave go the spoils.

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