19 April 2015
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 and steep 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 (800 m / avg. 12 %), will be done four times. Since the World Championships in 2012, the finishing line has been placed 1800 meters after the top of Cauberg. This means 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. The wind plays an important factor here. A tailwind will help a lone attacker, while a headwind will increase the chances of a sprint significantly. As of Wednesday, the weather forecast predicts a light tailwind.
For the 2013 edition, the race organizers added an extra lap of 20 km. This has really opened up the race, giving opportunistic riders a fair chance of striking from afar. Roman Kreuziger did so two years ago, when he attacked over the top of Cauberg heading out on the final lap. The most likely scenario remains that it all comes down to Cauberg but the riders now know there is a real possibility to take the favorites by surprise and keep the peloton at bay.
On the last lap, the riders face Geulhemmerberg (1 km / avg. 5.8 %) with 16.5 km to go and then Bemelerberg (900 m / avg. 7 %) with just 7.8 km left. Even though these climbs most definitely will leave their mark in the legs of the riders before reaching Cauberg for the last time, they won’t be crucial for the final outcome. Usually, the peloton flies up these ascents, taking back a lot of time on possible breakaways. We may also see some attacks on Bemelerberg by riders of the teams who would be working in the peloton otherwise. If a team like BMC sends out a rider on Bemelerberg, they can sit back and let the teams of the other favorites sacrifice their riders in order to catch the break. Much like they did in Brabantse Pijl this week. It will be extremely difficult to distance the peloton and keep the gap on Cauberg though.