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39th Amstel Gold Preview: More!
 
By Staff
Date: 4/17/2004
39th Amstel Gold Preview: More!
 

Weather Forecast

Only a slight chance of rain is forecast for Sunday, though skies will be mostly cloudy and rain is expected late. Low temperatures should be around 45F (8C) with a high of 63F (17C) - fairly pleasant conditions. As for wind, it is predicted to be 11mph (18 km/h) from the southwest.

Thoughts from a DS

The succession of climbs throughout the race, the narrow twisty roads, which are sometimes no more than well kept farm tracks, at other times urban roads, has the effect of gradually reducing the peloton. The race is often decided by a small or lone breakaway.

Theo Van Rooy, 2003:
"The Cauberg is a 1.2km hill with a gradient of 12%. It should be tackled in a high gear, especially at the start. You should be using something like 52*17, 53*17, 53*16... After 250 km, certain riders will have the empty legs and will do the climb on a lower gear, but those riders who want success will be in a high gear. It is a tough climb, but for those who want to win the race, whether it ends on the flat or a climb will make little difference.

"What might alter the race is on the descent from Valkenburg; with about 2.5 km to go there is a hard left hand bend approaching the climb. If there is a small group in front, anyone who does not want a sprint finish may well attack here. From that point of view, the bold rider can win."

Looking Back - 2001 Edition

At the final stage of the race with a total length of 258 km (approx. 160m), the very agitated team leader Theo de Rooij smoked his first cigarette in three years when he followed Erik Dekker in the team car. Dekker won the "sprint-à-deux" against Lance Armstrong and gained the victory in the 36th edition of the Amstel Gold Race.

The Rabobank team had controlled the race through Limburg, the most southern province of the Netherlands, and their efforts were rewarded. After 227 km (approx. 141m) Dekker was able to join the two leaders, Armstrong and Eddy Mazzoleni. At the foot of Keutenberg Hill the three leaders had an advantage of 55 seconds on a chasing group including Michele Bartoli, Peter van Petegem, Johan Museeuw, Marc Lotz and Michael Boogerd. Mazzoleni couldn't handle the climbing pace and lost contact with Dekker and Armstrong.

Lotz and Boogerd did their utmost to slow down the chasing group as a result of which Markus Zberg, Davide Rebellin, Chris Peers and Serge Baguet were able to catch up with them. The two frontrunners, however, stayed out of sight. When they entered Maastricht, Armstrong, twice winner of the Tour de France at that time, saddled Dekker with the unfavourable leading position. Nevertheless, the 30-year-old Dekker didn't let the Texan come alongside and sprinted with apparent ease to his second victory in a World Cup race. Because of this victory, Dekker, who also won the 1999 Classica San Sebastian, topped the World Cup points standing. It was the second time in two years Armstrong lost out to a Dutchman. He was beaten by Rabo rider Michael Boogerd in 1999. Belgian Serge Baguet, who crossed the finish line 17 seconds behind Armstrong, secured the third place on the stand.

On the wheel of Baguet were Zberg, Museeuw, Van Petegem, Bartoli and Rebellin. After the race, Boogerd compared the current Dutch riders with those of the golden years when famous riders such as Hennie Kuiper, Jan Raas, Gerrie Knetemann and Joop Zoetemelk were members of various Dutch teams. "Servais Knaven won Paris-Roubaix, Dekker won a World Cup race last year as well as this year, once Van Bon won in Hamburg and I also won the Amstel Gold Race two years ago. Besides, we also had quite good rankings even if we didn't win", said the citizen of The Hague, who was pleased with the ninth place.

Andrei Tchmil: "I must have looked stupid"
"I attacked so quickly, because it can definitely work in such bad weather. Look at the Tour of Flanders. I felt so strong. I kept hoping Bartoli, Museeuw and the others would come back. But then I fell out of the race, literally! I was so busy thinking about the approaching Keutenberg, that I didn't see the turn to the right. That must have looked very stupid on television, and that's the way I feel. It's never a pleasure when you have superlegs and then you make a big mistake. There has to be a first time for everything, …"

Erik Dekker: "I was nervous"
"The sign I gave to my teammates on the streets of Maastricht was to make sure that I didn't lose my nerve. But this wasn't necessary. If I was sitting in front of the TV and Armstrong and Dekker were heading for the finish line together, I just know that Dekker is the fastest!"

Serge Baguet: "The others were all faster than me"
"It was rather difficult on the Cauberg, where Van Petegem started to accelerate a bit, but I kept hanging on. At the end, I thought I could only have a go at it, because I knew the others in the group were all faster than me. When I attacked, the others didn't react so my third spot was secure. All of a sudden, I saw the the cars that were following Dekker/Armstrong in front of me. That moment, the only thing I could think of is that it would be the surprise of the day if I could jump over them. It would have been too good to be true!"

Lance Armstrong: "I knew I found myself with a fast rider, a 'winner.'
"In 1999, I was annoyed with my second place behind Boogerd even if I did not show it too much. This time, I knew that I found myself with a fast rider, a 'winner'. I expected that it would be very difficult to win. I am not disappointed. On the contrary, I am content with my condition. It is the first time of the year which I ride 250 kilometers. I had good legs, good breathing. Around me, I saw big stars and that gave me good moral, to know that I was in good company. It is a good starting point for the Tour de France."

Mercury Report:
The Amstel Gold Race is the world cup event that welcomes the fewest number of international reporters. Is this because the reports are typically tired after two weeks of cycling coverage, in the mud and cold of Northern Europe? Or is it because of the media center, an awful cement factory that gives an opposite impression to the nice towns of Gulpen or Valkenburg? On the other hand, for the riders, the Amstel Gold Race is the event that everyone attends willfully.

Fred Rodriguez: (whose lead with the breakaway group got to 8 minutes):
"Bartoli was on Tchmil's wheel and I forget who was in front of me but Bartoli couldn't hold the pace in the cross wind and he pulled off and I closed the gap to Tchmil's wheel and we got on to the break and there were only five of us that got on. And then perhaps another 30 or 40 guys came on and that was mainly the group. Again we hit the cross winds and it was sort of splitting and I didn't even know where the rest of the field was at this point. It was just amazing, I was already tapping along going at max effort so early on. I was thinking, this is a long race! So I just kept on making sure I was at the front because in this sort of weather, when it's cold and it's really windy, it's better to stay at the front because even if you're wasting energy at the front you're better off than being at the back.

"So I stayed up there and it was because I guess Tchmil knew the downhill that he told his guys to really punch it on the down hill and we made a little right turn into like a valley and that's where they really put the hammer down for a couple of minutes and I looked back and there was only 12 of us left. That was it. The break was gone.

"As soon as it went, I was told to sit on and not cooperate."

Result

1 Erik Dekker NED 6:39:13
2 Lance Armstrong m.t.
3 Serge Baguet BEL  0:00:17
4 Markus Zberg SUI m.t.
5 Johan Museeuw BEL m.t.
6 Peter Van Petegem BEL  0:00:20
7 Michele Bartoli ITA m.t.
8 Davide Rebellin ITA m.t.
9 Michael Boogerd NED m.t.
10 Chris Peers BEL m.t.
...
34 George Hincapie USA 0:09:14
36 Fred Rodriguez USA m.t.

(Interestingly, Museeuw and Van Petegem finished in the same places here as they did in last week's Paris-Roubaix, Museeuw at 17 seconds in both races, Van Petegem at 17 seconds last week and at 20 seconds here.)


A shot from the 2001 edition.

Looking Back - 1980 Edition

Jan Raas is “Mr. Amstel Gold,” having won the race four times in succession between 1977 and 1980 when he was also World Champion. In 1981 he was prevented by Bernard Hinault from becoming the first rider to win a single classic race five times in a row. However Raas returned the following year (1982) to win the race for a fifth and last time.

On Keutenberg Hill a motorcyclist got in his way, after Raas had attempted a razor-sharp break away from Gilbert Duclos-Lasalle and Henk Lubberding, his fellow escapees. When they were racing downhill, several riders, including Bernard Hinault, Hennie Kuiper, Sean Kelly and Jo Maas caught up with the three leaders.

In the last kilometres of the race Raas had a hard time because Kuiper attempted six breaks. Still, Kuiper couldn't shake off the chasing group. Neither could Raas, who also attempted to dash away several times. So, a final sprint had to decide the race. Raas put on a great sprint, worthy of a world champion, and won his fourth Gold Race.

Results

1 Jan Raas NED 5:44:27
2 Fons de Wolf BEL 
3 Sean Kelly IRL 
4 Jean Chassang FRA 
5 Bernard Hinault FRA 
6 Jacques Bossis FRA
7 Daniël Willems BEL
8 Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle FRA
9 Jo Maas NED
10 Jean-Phillipe Vandenbrande BEL (all same time)

Looking Back - 1978 Edition

SCANDAL! was the cry that went up at the finish of the Amstel Gold Race, and the loudest voice was that of Flandria manager Fred de Bruyne.

He, and those who howled the word with him, had good right.

Scandal is a word that is often used to signify a false result. This time this word was used by every Continental reporter, no matter the media.

A blatant act of sporting vandalism, maybe the worst to be perpetrated in modern times, made the result of the Amstel into a mockery, and it this classification is allowed to stand in the record books then that, too, is an admission of weakness in the world of race commissaires in the Netherlands.

The start of the final episode of the race came as no surprise, for Hennie Kuiper had prepared the ground admirably for Jan Raas' scalding attack up the Cauberg out of Valkenburg with 15 kilometres left to cover. But no sooner had the Raleigh man gone clear, than he found himself behind a solid, fast-moving phalanx of predominantly Dutch motorcycles. This incredible wall of shelter inspired Raas to even greater efforts, which soon saw him clear of Francesco Moser, Joop Zoetemelk, Freddy Maertens, and Kuiper.

Bartolozzi, at the wheel of the Sanson team car, seeing what was happening, flung his own vehicle into the fray signalling Moser to tuck in behind. Peter Post, piloting the Raleigh car, saw him coming up and tried to block the road. The confusion was colossal, the two cars boring and shoving at each other whilst the riders desperately tried to pass.

By the time a modicum of reason reigned betwen the Raleigh and Sanson team directors it was too late for Moser to react, and in any case he had only a tired Zoetemelk, a weakened Maertens, and a non-working Kuiper to turn to for support.

This frightful situation spoiled an otherwise perfectly organised Amstel, which was also a very good bike-race, as you can see by who was up at the front by the time the event entered Valkenburg for the final charge.

In the knowledge that the second part of the race would be terribly severe, the first 100 kilometres were taken at a steady pace, not that this was at all slow as many dropped men would willingly testify, and this section was marked only by a fall from Maertens who got back into the fold without a great deal of trouble.

Roger de Vlaeminck, fresh from his great triumph in Milan-San Remo, took over his 'ordinary' job as lieutenant to Moser, and led the field up the first ascent of the ghastly Keuteberg, (km 70) followed by Raas and Didi Thurau, and then Moser, Gregor Braun, Andre Dierickx and Michel Laurent.

Despite a general regrouping after the climb, it was obvious that the Ijsboerkes were out to control the race, counting on a victory either from Walter Godefroot or Thurau.

The World Champion once again attacked ferociously at the 160-kilometre mark, with 70 to go, this offensive splitting the field into two distinct groups. Knetemann, taken by surprise, found himself in the second one but never gave up for a moment, being in the useful company of young Leo van Vliet (keep an eye on this one for future reference!) Ronald de Witte and Jan Krekels amongst others, and came up to the leaders again after a hard 10-kilometre chase.

So, as they approached the packed slopes of the Keuteberg for the second time (km 190), the head of the race was composed of 6 Ijsboerke, 5 Raleigh, 4 Peugeots, 2 Sansons, and one sole Flandria, Maertens . . . and the Belgian star wasn't happy about it one little bit.

Knetemann attacked and got clear with Van Vliet, Bourreau, and Godefroot, and stayed away until they'd topped the Keuteberg where Moser organised the chase and Godefroot punctured.

Moser attacked again after he had made the junction, and once again Van Vliet and Bourreau managed to hold him, but with great difficulty as the great Italian was carrying out his plan to the letter, that being to get rid of all the roadmen- sprinters on the endless climbs. At this point Braun, Knetemann, and Thurau just had to let him go.

And so it came down to the last actors in this epic that unfortunately would be turned into a farce. Moser, Maertens Zoetemelk, Raas, and Kuiper were away and ready for the curtain to go up for the last act of the tragedy that was to be the Grand Finale of the Amstel Gold Race.

Result

1 Jan Raas (Raleigh) 230 km in 6-05-03
2 F. Moser (Sanson) at 1-16
3 J. Zoetemelk (Mercier) s.t.
4 F. Maertens (Flandria) s.t.
5 H. Kuiper (Raleigh) s.t.
6 G. Knetemann (Raleigh) 4-02
7 G. Braun (Peugeot) s.t.
8 L. Van Vliet (Mercier) s.t.
9 D. Thurau (Ijsboerke)
10 B. Bourreau (Peugeot)

Thanks to podofdonny, Tom James, Brian Townsley, Velo Club du Net.

 
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