After a series of spring classics abroad, the 54th edition of the Amstel Gold Race will be held in Limburg on Sunday. Thanks to Mathieu van der Poel's victory in the Brabant Arrow, all eyes are on him. Here everything you need to know about the only Dutch spring classic.
What does the course look like?
The trail has hardly changed compared to previous years. The start is still in Maastricht, but has been moved from the Markt to the Vrijthof. The finish since 2013 is no longer on the famous Cauberg, but 1.5 kilometers away.
The Gold Race is the only Dutch spring classic, but the last Dutch victory dates from eighteen years ago. Former cyclist Erik Dekker was the last Dutchman to win the hill classic in 2001 by beating Lance Armstrong in a sprint-a-deux.
"I think the edition I drove was the toughest in years," says Dekker in conversation with NUsport. "It was raining and there was a lot of wind: out of 150 riders, maybe 35 crossed the line."
This year the peloton will cover 258 kilometers and the riders will be presented with 35 climbs. The Amstel Gold Race is an excellent opportunity for attackers, the so-called puncheurs, because of the many venomous hills.
The route of the 54th edition of the Amstel Gold Race.
What can we expect from Van der Poel?
Van der Poel experiences a dream start in his first spring on the road. He was fourth in both the Tour of Flanders and Ghent-Wevelgem and the cyclist also won several semi-classics, including Dwars door Vlaanderen.
On Wednesday, Van der Poel defeated Tim Wellens and Julian Alaphilippe in the Brabantse Pijl. For Dekker, this is proof that Van der Poel can also win on Sunday. "He has form and a good sprint in the legs. He has also not driven a Paris-Roubaix, that works to his advantage on Sunday."
"Van der Poel is one of the favorites these days, we can't ignore it. He does what he wants and follows his heart, I think that many people can take an example. Not only on the bike, but in life in general sentence. "
The Gold Race is the last road race for Van der Poel this year. After Sunday the Dutch champion will fully focus on mountain biking. 'The Flying Dutchman' is going for gold at the 2020 Olympic Games.
Mathieu van der Poel wins Brabantse Pijl. (Photo: VI Images)
Who are the other contenders?
Reigning world champion Alejandro Valverde is an attacker pur sang and specializes in hill classics. 'El Imbatido' (The Unbeatable) won Liege-Bastogne-Liege four times, the Walloon Arrow five times and ended up on the podium in the Gold Race three times.
But Valverde is not a top favorite on Sunday, says Dekker. "If the finish had been on the Cauberg, it would have been a different story. But on a flat arrival it is less explosive than Van der Poel or Alaphilippe."
Michal Kwiatkowski finished four times in the top five of the Gold Race. The Pool of Team Sky is good in the hills, has a strong punch and was third in Milan-San Remo this year. Dekker: "With Sky he has a very good team around him. Moreover, he has a fast, stable sprint."
The 2018 edition was won by Michael Valgren Andersen, who drives Dimension Data this year. According to Dekker, demarcation is the only way to surprise favorites as an underdog. "You saw it with Alberto Bettiol in the Tour of Flanders: one good attack and the competitors start looking at each other."
Last ten winners of the Amstel Gold Race
2018: Michael Valgren Andersen © ANP
2017: Philippe Gilbert © ANP
2016: Enrico Gasparotto © ANP
2015: Michal Kwiatkowski © ANP
2014: Philippe Gilbert © ANP
2013: Roman Kreuziger © ANP
2012: Enrico Gasparotto © ANP
2011: Philippe Gilbert © ANP
2010: Philippe Gilbert © ANP
2009: Sergey Ivanov © ANP
Deceuninck-Quick-Step successful again?
Dekker thinks that there are few cycling fans who do not like to watch 'The Wolfpack'. "It is a very dominant team that always has an offensive course and does very beautiful things."
In March, Alaphilippe doubled on behalf of Quick-Step in Italy by winning both Milan-San Remo and Strade Bianche. The Frenchman is first on the UCI world ranking.
"If I were Van der Poel, I would choose Alaphilippe's wheel. If you end up in the final without teammates, you can still benefit from his team," argues Dekker.
Philippe Gilbert has already won four times in South Limburg and was also the first to cross the line in Roubaix last week. Of the five cycling monuments, the Belgian now has four in his name.
According to Dekker, last week's performance will take its toll on 36-year-old Gilbert. "Maybe he can still participate in the final because of good teamwork, but I don't see Gilbert winning on Sunday."
Julian Alaphilippe celebrates his victory in Strade Bianche with teammate Zdenek Stybar. (Photo: ANP)
What time are the start and finish?
The starting signal for the 54th edition of the Amstel Gold Race will be sounding at 10.30 a.m. The finish is expected around 5.15 p.m.
The women - the Gold Race has had a women's edition since 2017 - leave twenty minutes later than the men in Maastricht and face a 127 kilometer ride through Limburg. The finish is in Berg en Terblijt.
The weather forecast for the Amstel Gold Race is sunny with a 10 percent chance of rain. Furthermore, it is almost windless in Limburg.
Top ten for 2018
- 1. Michael Valgren Andersen (DEN)
- 2. Roman Kreuziger (TSJ)
- 3. Enrico Gas Parotto (ITA)
- 4. Peter Sagan (SWK)
- 5. Alejandro Valverde (SPA)
- 6. Tim Wellens (BEL)
- 7. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA)
- 8. Jakob Fuglsang (DEN)
- 9. Lawson Craddock (USA)
- 10. Jelle Vanendert (BEL)
Do you want to stay informed during the Amstel Gold Race? On NU.nl we follow the course from the start in a live blog.