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Race Preview - The 45th Amstel Gold Race
By Giles Belbin
Date: 4/15/2010
Race Preview - The 45th Amstel Gold Race

Courtesy Amstel Gold Race

And so begins the second trilogy of the northern spring classics as we leave the pavé of Gent-Wevelgem, De Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix behind and look forward to the hillier trio of Amstel Gold, La Flèche Wallonne and of course Liège-Bastogne-Liège. First up in this trilogy of delights is the Amstel Gold Race.

Reasonably youthful, it's first edition of the Amstel Gold Race was in 1966, and has all the ingredients of classic bike races. It has length, difficulty, an indelible relationship with its region and, most of all, a rich history.

The race came to fruition thanks to the imagination of two Dutchmen who ran Inter Sport in the 1960s – Ton Vissers and Herman Krott, and who shared a love of cycling. Vissers, from the city of Rotterdam came into cycling relatively late, then taking positions firstly as a manager of a team of amateurs before going on to manage the team Willem II – Gazelle, who boasted many well known riders amongst their ranks, including Rik Van Looy.

Krott, from Amsterdam, also had links with the cycling world, firstly as a (not particularly successful) rider and then working as an assistant to the Dutch rider Peter Post. He went on to become the team manager of the amateur cycling team representing Amstel Breweries and was extremely successful in bringing amateurs up through the ranks and into professional teams – no less than 60 riders turned professional thanks to Krott, including the 1980 Tour de France winner, Joop Zoetemelk.

Together Vissers and Krott organised a series of races across the Netherlands, 27 in 1966 alone, but these were mainly criteriums and all were of little lasting significance. The two cast covetous glances across the border into Belgium where they saw a multitude of important races, including of course the Ronde de Vlaanderen and Liège-Bastogne-Liège and started to hatch plans to organise their own Dutch classic cycle race.

With Krott ideally placed to secure sponsorship for their plans he set about convincing the Amstel brewery of the merits of such a race, selling it as a race of “great international allure”. Amstel bought into the idea and in 1966 the race, under the name the Amstel Gold Race, was announced – to be run over 280 kilometres, from Amsterdam to Maastricht, Krott later admitting “I had already cycled the race [route] several times, although nobody knew this at the time”. With sponsorship secured and a race route announced the Amstel Gold Race was up and running and has been held uninterrupted ever since.

2010 Race Parcours

Courtesy Amstel Gold Race

The race starts in the marketplace in the town of Maastricht and takes the peloton north-east and over the first of the 31 climbs, the Maasberg, a narrow, 500m climb averaging 4.4%, before turning south after 20kms. The race continues south and then completes a series of loops including multiple ascents of the Wolfsberg, Loorberg, Eyserbosweg and, of course the Cauberg, upon which the race finishes after 257.3kms.

The climbs come thick and fast in Amstel Gold and any one of which can act as a springboard to victory, but it is the climbs that come towards the end of the race that hold the most potential for propelling those with good legs towards victory.

The Eyserbosweg this year features twice on the race route. The riders tackle the climb for the first time after 157kms but it will be the second ascent, coming after 236kms, where the action is likely to get animated.

Profile of the Eyserbosweg - Courtesy Amstel Gold Race

HTC-Columbia believe this could be the crucial climb of the race. Sports Director, Tristan Hoffman says, "The real action starts on the Eyserbosweg climb when we go over it the second time, less than 30 kilometres from the finish. After that, you can't afford to make any mistakes."

The climb is just over 1.1km long, with an average gradient of 8.1%. The first 700m of climbing are reasonably steady, before the gradient kicks up to a maximum, leg burning 21%. This stretch is the perfect opportunity for an attack to be launched.

The Fromberg, 1.6km and 4.4% average gradient; and the Keutenberg, 700m and 9.4%; then come in quick succession, before the riders hit the Cauberg for the third and final time.

Profile of the Cauberg Courtesy Amstel Gold Race

The Cauberg is 1.2kms long with an average gradient of 5.8%, maxing out at 13% for a stretch at around 400m. Last year three riders, Sergei Ivanov, Karsten Kroon and Robert Gesink, got to the foot of the Cauberg together. They battled up the climb, a street lined with bars and restaurants, headed by Ivanov who managed to hold on and take the win. It is a brutal climax to the race, when legs will be sapped of all energy. But the riders will be spurred on by a cacophony of noise on race day as the masses spill out of bars, where they have been following the race on TV, to cheer on their heroes as they grit their teeth and grind their way to the line and glorious salvation.

The 2009 Podium, Sergei Ivanov is flanked by Karten Kroon and Robert Gesink
Photo © 2009 Bart Hazen

Summary of the Climbs

1. 10.7km Maasberg, Dorpstraat
2. 30.5km Adsteeg
3. 37.5km Lange Raarberg,
4. 54.1km Bergseweg
5. 66km Sibbergrubbe
6. 71km Cauberg - Vilterweg
7. 92.6km Wolfsberg
8. 98.2km Loorberg
9. 108.3km Schweibergerweg
10. 114.7km Camerig
11. 127.7km Drielandenpunt
12. 130.5km Gemmenich
13. 134km Vijlenerbos
14. 143.8km Eperheide
15. 151.8 km Gulperberg
16. 155.4km van Plettenbergweg
17. 157.2km Eyserbosweg
18. 163.1km St. Remigiusstraat: Huls
19. 168.5km Vrakelberg - Kruishoeveweg
20. 176.4km Sibbergrubbe
21. 181.9km Cauberg - Vilterweg
22. 185.4km Geulhemmerweg
23. 198.2km Bemelerberg-Gasthuis
24. 215.2km Wolfsberg
25. 220.9km Loorberg
26. 229.2km Gulperberg
27. 234.7km Kruisberg
28. 236.8km Eyserbosweg
29. 240.5km Fromberg - Afvaartweg
30. 245km Keutenberg
31. 257.3km Cauberg

Race Favourites

Well the big news this week is that the rider that has been dominating the spring classics so far this season, Saxo Bank's Fabian Cancellara, will not be riding Amstel Gold, neither, for that matter, will he be riding La Flèche Wallonne or Liège-Bastogne-Liège Team Director, despite Bjarne Riis saying earlier this week he thought Cancellara could win at least one more classic this spring. Winning rides in De Ronde and Paris-Roubaix would sap the energy of any rider and even Cancellara has his limits, saying, “I’ve given 100 percent to land these two memorable wins and I appreciate I can’t repeat that form in the upcoming classics. Quite simply, I’m tired.”

So with Cancellara resting up, who are the favourites?

Sergei Ivanov
Last year's winner is not well fancied by the bookmakers but he clearly understands the race and knows what it takes to reign victorious in this unique challenge. A top ten finish in 2008 for the Katusha rider proved his credentials before he took the race win in 2009. This year his form has been indifferent: he finished 31st in both Milan-San Remo and De Ronde whilst his best result has been 13th in Stage One of Paris-Nice. But he had similar early season results last year which were clearly no barrier for him. He'll also have the number one on his back which may give him that bit extra motivation.

2009 winner Sergei Ivanov with his winner's trophy
Photo © 2009 Bart Hazen

Alejandro Valverde
The favourite with the bookies, Caisse d'Epargne's leader has had great early season form, finishing second in Paris-Nice and Vuelta al Pais Vasco where he took two stage wins. He also has great history in the spring classics. In 2007 he finished sixth in this race whilst coming second in both La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. In 2008 he finished third in Amstel Gold and won Liège-Bastogne-Liège. In 2010 he will be looking to add Amstel Gold to his impressive palmares.

Joaquin Rodriguez
Katusha's other hope for the win is Spain's Joaquin Rodriquez. Second in last year's Liège-Bastogne-Liège proved he is well suited to the hillier spring classics and he is in good form, finishing 4th in last week's Vuelta al Pais Vasco stage race, taking the win in Stage five in the process. With Rodriquez the second of Katusha's two pronged attack, the team tactics will be intriguing to watch.

Philippe Gilbert
Omega-Lotto's go to guy for the classics has had a good spring classics season so far with third places getting him on both the Gent-Wevelgem and Ronde van Vlaanderen podiums. Last year he came fourth in both Amstel Gold and Liège-Bastogne-Liège and will hoping to get on to the top step at least once this spring.

Others to watch for

With Cancellara not riding Saxo Bank's hopes rest on brothers Frank and Andy Schleck. Frank finished second in 2008 but suffered a nasty crash last year which prevented him from finishing with Andy going on to finish ninth. Last year's podium bridesmaids, BMC Racing;s and Rabobank's Robert Gesink will be hoping to take in the view from the top step as will Lampre's Damiano Cunego, who will be looking to put the travails of the week behind him to repeat his 2008 win.

The 45th Amstel Gold Race Provisional Start List.

R - Reserve

Team Katusha
1. Ivanov, Sergei
2. Klimov,Serguei
3. Kolobnev, Alexandr
4. Mazzanti, Luca
5. Pozzato, Filippo
6. Rodriguez Oliver, Joaquin
7. Vantomme, Maxime
8. Vorganov, Eduard
R. Brutt, Pavel
R. Eskov, Nikita
R. Kirchen, Kim
R. Vandenbergh, Stijn

AG2R La Mondiale
11. Arrieta Lujambio, José Luis
12. Bouet, Maxime
13. Champion, Dimitri
14. Efimkin, Alexander
15. Kadri, Biel
16. Le Lay, David
17. Mandri, René
18. Roche, Nicolas
R. Elmiger, Martin
R. Gadret, John
R. Gastauer, Ben

21. Davis, Allan
22. Davis, Scott
23. Fofonov, Dmitriy
24. Gasparotto, Enrico
25. Grivko, Andriy
26. Iglinskiy, Maxim
27. Selvaggi, Mirko
R. Dmitriyev, Valeriy
R. Gourov, Maxim

Caisse d'Epargne
31. Coyot, Arnaud
32. Erviti, Imanol
33. Garcia Acosta, José Vicente
34. Kiryienka, Vasil
35. Lopez Garcia, David
36. Pasamontes Rodriguez, Luis
37. Sánchez Gil, Luis León
38. Valverde Belmonte, Alejandro
R. Moreau, Christophe
R. Perget, Mathieu

Euskatel - Euskadi
41. De Lis De Andrés, Sergio
42. Galdos, Aitor
43. Isasi Flores, Inaki
44. Martinez De Esteban, Egoi
45. Nieve Ituralde, Mikel
46. Oroz Ugalde, Juan José
47. Pérez Lezáun, Alan
48. Velasco Murillo, Ivan
R. Izaguirre, Gorka
R. Verdugo Marcotegui, Gorka

Footon - Servetto
51. Brandle, Matthias
52. Capecchi, Eros
53. Cardoso, Manuel Antonio
54. Eibegger, Markus
55. Felline, Fabio
56. Pedersen, Martin
57. Perez Arrieta, Aitor
58. Valls Ferri, Rafael

Francaise Des Jeux
61. Casar, Sandy
62. Meersman, Gianni
63. Mourey, Francis
64. Roux, Anthony
65. Sulzberger, Wesley
66. Vaugrenard, Benoît
67. Veikkanen, Jussi

Garmin - Transitions
71. Cozza, Steven
72. Duggan, Timothy
73. Hesjedal, Ryder
74. Kreder, Michel
75. Maaskant, Martijn
76. Meier, Christian
77. Pate, Danny
78. Van Summeren, Johan
R. Van der Velde, Ricardo

Lampre - Farnese Vini
81. Bono, Matteo
82. Cunego, Damiano
83. Gavazzi, Francesco
84. Loosli, David
85. Mori, Manuele
86. Pietropolli, Daniele
87. Righi, Daniele
88. Spezialetti, Alessandro
R. Balloni, Alfredo
R. Marzano, Marco

Liquigas - Doimo
91. Bellotti, Francesco
92. Finetto, Mauro
93. Koren, Kristjan
94. Kreuziger, Roman
95. Nibali, Vincenzo
96. Quinziato, Manuel
97. Santaromita, Ivan
98. Willems, Frederik
R. Agnoli, Valerio
R. Zaugg, Oliver

Omega Pharma - Lotto
101. Aerts, Mario
102. Brandt, Christophe
103. Delage, Mickael
104. Gilbert, Phillippe
105. Moreno Fernandez, Daniel
106. Peraud, Jean-Christophe
107. Van Avermaet, Greg
108. Vandenbroeck, Jurgen
R. Lowik, Gerben
R. Scheirlinckx, Staf

Quick Step
111. Barredo Llamazales, Carlos
112. Cataldo, Dario
113. Chavanel, Sylvain
114. Devenyns, Dries
115. Deweert, Kevin
116. Engels, Addy
117. Pineau, Jerome
118. Van De Walle, Jurgen
R. Devolder, Stijn
R. Malacarne, Davide

121. Boom, Lars
122. Freire Gomez, Oscar
123. Gesink, Robert
124. Langeveld, Sebastian
125. Martens, Paul
126. Nuyens, Nick
127. Tankink, Bram
128. Ten Dam, Laurens
R. Mollema, Bauke
R. Posthuma, Joost
R. Stamsnijder, Tom
R. Tjallingii, Maarten

Sky Professional Cycling Team
131. Carlström, Kjell
132. Downing, Russell
133. Gerrans, Simon
134. Hayman, Mathew
135. Pauwels, Serge
136. Portal, Nicolas
137. Swift, Ben
138. Viganò, Davide
R. Boasson Hagen, Edvald
R. Cummings, Stephen
R. Kennaugh, Peter

Team HTC - Columbia
141. Albasini, Michael
142. Lewis, Craig
143. Martin, Tony
144. Monfort, Maxime
145. Pinotti, Marco
146. Reynes Mimo, Vicente
147. Velits, Martin
148. Velits, Peter
R. Bak, Lars Ytting
R. Guldhammer, Rasmus
R. Roulston, Hayden
R. Siutsou, Kanstantsin

Team Milram
151. Fröhlinger, Johannes
152. Knees, Christian
153. Roels, Dominik
154. Sentjens, Roy
155. Terpstra, Niki
156. Voss, Paul
157. Wegmann, Fabian
158. Wrolich, Peter
R. Eichler, Markus
R. Schröder, Björn

Team Radioshack
161. Hermans, Ben
162. Horner, Chris
163. Li, Fuyu
164. Muravyev, Dimitri
165. Paulinho, Sergio Miguel Moreira
166. Rovny, Ivan
167. Vaitkus, Tomas
168. Zubeldia Aguirre, Haimar
R. Busche, Matthew

Team Saxo Bank
171. Aaen-Jörgensen, Jonas
172. Cancellara, Fabian
173. Didier, Laurent
174. Fuglsang, Jakob
175. Schleck, Andy
176. Schleck, Frank
177. Sørensen, Nicki
178. Voigt, Jens
R. Breschel, Matti
R. Sorensen, Chris-Anker
R. Steensen, André

BMC Racing Team
181. Bookwalters, Brent
182. Burghardt, Marcus
183. Evans, Cadel
184. Frank, Mathias
185. Kroon, Karsten
186. Louder, Jeffry
187. Morabito, Steve
188. Zahner, Simon
R. Beyer, Chad
R. Wyss, Danilo

Cervelo Test Team
191. Appollonio, Davide
192. Deignan, Philip
193. Florencio Cabré, Xavier
194. Gustov, Volodymir
195. King, Edward
196. Lloyd, Daniel
197. Sastre Candil, Carlos
198. Tondo Volpini, Xavier
R. Denifl, Stefan
R. Wyss, Marcel

201. Bellemakers, Dirk
202. Commeyne, Davy
203. De Waele, Bert
204. Dekkers, Hans
205. Delfosse, Sébastien
206. Dockx, Bart
207. Gourgue,Benjamin
208. Verheyen,Geert
R. Ricci Poggi, Martial
R. Scheirlinckx, Bert
R. Van den Haute, Tom

Skil - Shimano
211. Curvers, Roy
212. De Kort, Koen
213. Geschke, Simon
214. Goesinnen, Floris
215. Huguet, Yann
216. Hupond, Thierry
217. Rooijakkers,Piet
218. Timmer,Albert
R. Docker, Mitchell
R. Veelers, Tom

Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator 
221. Armee, Sander
222. Baugnies, Jerome
223. Coenen, Johan
224. Jacobs, Piete
225. Neyens, Maarten
226. Van Hecke, Preben
227. Vandewalle, Kristof
228. Vanspeybrouck, Pieter
R. De Gendt, Thomas
R. Joseph,Stijn
R. Steurs, Geert
R. Van Vooren, Steven

Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team
231. Carrara, Matteo
232. Groen van, Arnoud
233. Hoogerland, Johnny
234. Lagutin, Sergey
235. Leukemans, Bjorn
236. Marcato, Marco
237. Poels, Wouter
238. Ruygh,Rob
R. Golas, Michal
R. Van Leijen, Joost

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