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41rst Amstel Gold Race Preview Part II
By Vaughn Trevi
Date: 4/15/2006
41rst Amstel Gold Race Preview Part II

41rst Amstel Gold Race Preview Part II
The Contenders, Amstel Gold Daily Peloton Reference, Photos of the riders from today.

The youngest Classic the Amstel Gold was first run in 1966 over 305 kilometres, but the following year the distance was reduced to 250 kilometres and it has kept that distance till today.

The parcours of 253.1 kilometres, with 31 climbs, the Amstel Gold is a classic that is more suited to more lightweight riders, with less complicated roads and not so much cobblestone. But it will have the toughness of a the Spring Classics type of race and the battle to achieve the victory of the specialists who have this week marked the race as the main objective on their schedule.

The 41rst edition does not vary much from previous editions with the toughest part in the middle of the race, from kilometre 135 to 160, in which 5 hills are climbed. Here there will be an initial selection and many riders will begin to get left behind. Only the strongest will keep going until the final climbs, 8 in the last 40 kilometres, with the final Cauberg wall, 1 kilometre with an 8% gradient where the favourites will do all they can to shake off their rivals and raise their arms as they cross the finish line.

Course Changes for 2006
However, there was a change in direction of entering the Gulpener berg, and the ‘Maastricht Round’ has been altered. Instead of riding through the inner city of Maastricht 75 km before the finish, a shortened loop will combine old and new Maastricht. The route will follow the F. Romanusweg to the grand Wilhelminasingel, then going to the modernistic Avenue Ceramique. This is a beautiful passage for the bystanders of Maastricht and surroundings as well as a safer passing of Maastricht for the riders and the following caravan. Road blocks in the centre of Maastricht were the cause of changing the route. There is one railway crossing in the race this year coming in the first 13.5 kms in Gileen. Hopefully this presents no trouble coming early in the race when it is likely no significant break has developed.

Bettini photo c. Bart Hazen

The race takes the riders up this hill three times and it was here that 2004's year's winner Davide Rebellin shook off Michael Boogerd, after the Dutchman has launched his sprint too early on the final uphill.

An all too similar result occurred last year when the leaders group formed at 15 kms and gained 30 seconds on the peloton with Davide Rebellin, Danilo Di Luca, Oscar Freire and Michael Boogerd amongst them. By the Cauberg on a foggy day Di Luca attacked the quartet in the final kilometer with only 10seconds on the hard chasing bunch. The numbers were good for Rabobank that day, but again Michael Boogerd was denied the victory and finished second to Di Luca that day in the mists.

"Boogie"   photo c. Bart Hazen

Perhaps it will different for Boogie this year and we will see one of the peloton's broadest smiles on the podium again; Michael has won in 1999 beating 'el jefe,' Lance Armstrong, no less, in the sprint. Lance retired without winning the race although it was a prime target and a favorite race of his during his career. The fates deemed that Lance would finish twice at second; once the aforementioned one in 1999, and again in 2001 with Eric Dekker taking the win.
Boogerd's record of 4 seconds and one third since 1999 is one that he would like to to increase to two wins this year.

Former winners Di Luca and Vinokourov won't be present this year as they focus their preparation on the upcoming Grand Tours. Di Luca last years winner is focusing all of his preparation on the upcoming Giro and Vino has sites on a grand performance in le Tour. But the race roster doesn't lack for protagonists to test the fates to win the Amstel.

Davide Rebellin returns albeit with a fractured rib to lead the water boys in blue, the Italian who won the Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège two years ago, sustained this fracture when falling in the 4th stage of the Tour of the Basque Country. “The pain is bearable; I’m going to train on Thursday and thereafter will have a check-up. If there are no complications, I’ll simply start on Sunday.” Fabian Weggman has the grinta for this race and if the Cricket suffers expect that Weggman could be there as in his victory in the last San Francisco Grand Prix.

Quick Step/Innergetic
Paolo Bettini is the absolute team leader of the Quick Step squad in the Amstel Gold Race. The Italian king of classic rider has never won the Dutch race, whereas he has made it his priority for the last few years. Filippo Pozatto will play a protective role in the team of Patrick Lefevere next to Bettini. The winner of Milan-Sanremo is convinced that he’s up-to the classic ride of this weekend. Bram Tankink and Ad Engels account for the Dutch input in this team.

'Pipo' Pozatto photo c. Bart Hazen

Chris Horner photo c. Bart Hazen

Davitamon brings its hard men and Classics experienced crew but will be short Peter Van Petegem out with a broken collar bone after his crash at Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen. Mario Aerts, Brandt, Dockx, Leon Van Bon and Van Summeren are all hard men who can make a difference in Amstel Gold. A surprising turn of events has Chris Horner in Europe in preparation for the tour and the former Tour of Georgia winner riding Amstel Gold. Horner could be the surprise of the day; with a course and uphill finish that favors Horner's style.If Chris makes the crucial selection at the half way point and is in the leaders I expect to see him in the mix on the Cauberg wall.

Discovery Channel
Discovery Channel fields a team stinging from last weeks shuffle at the finish of the Paris Roubaix podium. Vladimir Gusev is one who one has to assume would like a bit of revenge and redemption on Sunday and his obvious good form from last week can't be discounted to put him at the front of affairs. Supported by a talented team with Roger Hammond, Bonoit, Van Den Broeck, Stijn Devolder and countryman Guennadi Mikhailov perhaps the boys in Disco Blue can take home the race win to team owner Lance Armstrong as part of the vindication for the day.

Oscar Freire has made a good choices in his build-up to the Amstel Gold Race. Three times world champion Freire comes in good form after winning the 4th stage in the Tour of the Basque Country. After last years race he will be more attentive to attacks in the final climb of the Cauberg. Rabobank brings a Monster of a squad to the race with former winners Boogerd and Eric Dekker the two who can boast to denying Lance Armstrong in his bid to win the Gold; not to mention the inestimable talents of the younger Dekker Thomas and Juan Antonio Fletcha and Joost Posthuma.

Ballan and Marzoli  photo c. Bart Hazen

Allesandro Ballan has proved a force this spring in animating the early races and being present in the attacks and finishes. Although team D.S. Fabrizio Bontempi stated earlier this week that Allesandro won't be aiming for a victory and only target is  Pro Tour points he warrants some attention for chances at a victory.

T-Mobile's Mario Kummer ties their chances with a trio of riders who have shown recent form and an open options to exercise during the race. Sergei Ivanov, Matthias Kessler and Luxembergs Kim Kirchen  will be the lead triumvirate for the Magenta Team. Time will show if this plan will work favorably in T-Mobile's efforts tomorrow. If I had to pick two riders of the squad to watch it would be Klier and Wesemann in a clinch if the the leaders aren't in the leaders group by the half way point.

CSC Kroon Leads
Former winner in 1997 Bjarne Riis didn't lead this team to number one status without a few tricks up his sleeve, to follow up Cancelara's victory in Paris Roubaix last Sunday.
Karston Kroon looks to be the lead rider in an a recent announcement on the CSC website:
Team CSC’s Karsten Kroon rolls into this weekend´s Amstel Gold Race with eyes on a victory and something to prove.
The 30-year-old Dutchman wants to show everyone that he deserves star status as a team leader in the punishing Ardennes classics. Until he caught the eye of Team CSC manager Bjarne Riis last year, he toiled for bigger names on the Dutch-sponsored Rabobank team.

“I was looking for opportunities to ride my own races,” Kroon said. “At Team CSC, I have chances to lead the team and be the captain. I want to pay back the team for its confidence in me. A win would be an ideal way to do that.”

CSC's Jens Voight  photo c. Bart Hazen

Kroon certainly has nothing to prove, at least when it comes to his credentials that include a stage victory at the Tour de France among other notable placings. Though he doesn’t have that ever-elusive major victory on his palmares, it could be just a matter of time.
“The Ardennes classics are my favorite races of the year,” he said. “I really want to win one of them. This year I have reached a new level, so I am very optimistic.”

Key to Kroon’s new confidence is a move from his longtime team, Rabobank, to Team CSC, and his subsequent shift from top lieutenant to such stars as Michael Boogerd and Erik Dekker to above-the-title starring role at Team CSC.

Last year, Kroon said he made contact with Riis to discuss his future. Riis wanted to bolster the team’s classics program and Kroon was looking for a team that would believe in his chances.

“Riis told me he wanted me to be the captain for the classics and that was what I was looking for,” he said.
Kroon said it’s been an eye-opener since switching from Rabobank to the forward-thinking Team CSC. His first taste came during the famous team-building camp in December, quickly followed up by intense training camps in January and February.

“This team is different. The training rides at Rabobank were actually harder. We used to ride 150-200 kilometers a day. At CSC, we ride less miles but do more intense work with specific workouts,” he said. “So far it seems to be working. I’m in the best shape of my career.”

That much is evident as Kroon has already enjoyed a fine spring, including a second at Brabantse Pijl and eighth in the cut-throat Tour of Flanders. At Flanders, Kroon just missed bridging out to the winning breakaway, pulling within 20 meters of the leaders before a strong headwind torpedoed his chances.

He skipped the remainder of the cobblestoned classics in favor of preparation for the Ardennes races, known for their narrower roads, punishing climbs and intense pace.
Kroon leads the way as Team CSC reloads following its amazing victory at Paris-Roubaix last Sunday with Fabian Cancellara. Most of the crew that raced on the cobbles are taking a break while the Ardennes attract a different kind of rider.

The steeper roads in the Ardennes favor riders who can zip up legendary climbs such as the Cauberg, the Mur de Huy and La Redoute. Kroon, for example, tips the scales at a featherweight 67kg while Roubaix champ Cancellara weighed in at 80kg, a more than 25-pound difference.

Basso to race next week
In addition to Kroon, Team CSC captain Ivan Basso will return to action, skipping the dangerously narrow roads at Amstel Gold Race in favor of the more prestigious and challenging races at Flèche Wallone and Liège-Bastogne-Liège later next week.

Third at Liège in 2002, Basso should never be counted out. Though his major goals come with the grand tours later this summer, the Giro d’Italia start is just around the corner and Basso is clearly coming into his best form of the year.
Team CSC also sees the return of two injured riders. Christian Vande Velde – who crashed out in Paris-Nice – is pencilled in to start Amstel Gold while Stuart O´Grady, who crashed out hard in Tirreno-Adriatico, is expected to start the one-day semi-classic Rund um Koln in Germany on April 17.
Also next week, Team CSC heads back to the United States where an in-form David Zabriskie will be one of the favorites for overall victory at the Tour de Georgia, April 18-23.


Daily Peloton. Com Amstel Gold Archives
2006 Ready Reference:
41rst Amstel Gold Startlist
Amstel Gold Team and Roster Announcements
41rst Amstel Gold Race Preview Part I
Amstel Gold Race Website

Previous Amstel Gold:
Amstel Gold Live Report 2005
Amstel Gold Report 2005
Amstel Gold Live Report 2004
Amstel Gold Roundup 2004
Preview 2004  & Start lists
Amstel Big Aim for Rabobank 2004
Who are the Best 20 Classics Riders in History?
Amstel Gold - Live Ticker 2003
Amstel Gold - How to Win
Amstel Gold - Preview 2003
Amstel Gold - Rider News 2003
Amstel Gold -Race Report 2002
Amstel Gold Preview and Full Start List
Amstel Gold ! Nostalgia...

1 Di Luca, Danilo Liquigas - Bianchi
2 Boogerd, Michael Rabobank
3 Celestino, Mirko Domina Vacanze

4 Rebellin, Davide Gerolsteiner
5 Martin Perdiguero, Miguel Angel Phonak Hearing Systems
6 Sinkewitz, Patrik Quickstep
7 Leukemans, Bjorn Davitamon-Lotto
8 Etxebarria Alkorta, David Liberty Seguros - Würth Team
9 Pineau, Jerome Bouygues Telecom
10 Freire Gomez, Oscar Rabobank

11 Kirchen, Kim Fassa Bortolo
12 Astarloa Ascasibar, Igor Barloworld - Valsir
13 Valverde Belmonte, Alejandro Illes Balears - Caisse d´Epargne
14 Arvesen, Kurt-Asle CSC
15 Schumacher, Stefan Shimano - Memory Corp.
16 Zaballa Gutierrez, Constantino Saunier Duval - Prodir
17 Coenen, Johan MrBookmaker - SportsTech
18 Brandt, Christophe Davitamon-Lotto
19 Mertens, Pieter Chocolade Jacques - T Interim
20 Mori, Manuele Saunier Duval - Prodir

21 Ljungqvist, Marcus Liquigas - Bianchi
22 Kessler, Matthias T-Mobile
23 Murn, Uros Phonak Hearing Systems
24 Landaluze Intxaurraga, Inigo Euskaltel - Euskadi
25 Pereiro Sio, Oscar Phonak Hearing Systems
26 Voigt, Jens CSC
27 Merckx, Axel Davitamon-Lotto
28 Sørensen, Nicki CSC
29 Rodriguez Oliver, Joaquin Saunier Duval - Prodir
30 Moos, Alexandre Phonak Hearing Systems


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