20 April 2014
The second part of the spring season continues with the first of the three Ardennes Classics. The cobblestones in Belgium and France are replaced by short hills in Holland. It’s time for Amstel Gold Race!
This year, there haven’t been any major changes to the route. The race still consists of narrow roads and twisty bends with a total of 34 hills to overcome. The final one, Cauberg (1.5 km / avg. 5 %), will be done four times. Last year, the organizers made a brilliant change when they moved up the finishing line. This means the line now comes 1800 meters after Cauberg and not on the top as it was in the past. This, and the extra lap of 20 km, have really opened up the race, giving opportunistic riders a chance to strike from afar.
In the past, this race almost always ended in an uphill sprint on Cauberg. For the World Championships in 2012, the finishing line was further up the road, which made for a great show. Naturally, the race organizers kept this change of route for Amstel Gold Race. The extra 1800 meters mean that it’s not just enough to be a strong puncheur anymore, you also have to be able to keep a chase group behind you on the flat part after Cauberg. Last year, Philippe Gilbert, Simon Gerrans and Alejandro Valverde went clear on the steep gradients but the ‘peloton’ caught them again before the line. It’s worth noting that it might have been another story had Roman Kreuziger not been alone in front, letting the rest fight for second place. Still, it shows that it’s definitely possible for a big group to arrive together.