Short, sharp climbs, heavy crosswinds, narrow roads, innumerable traffic islands and a brutal battle for position make the Amstel Gold Race one of the most under-rated and nervous days of the spring classics. Without an overwhelming favorite, Sunday’s 47th edition will be all the more stressful — just the situation the gritty opportunists need to turn the tables on the power climbers in the opener of the Ardennes classics.
Sandwiched between cycling monuments Paris-Roubaix and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, two of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious races, the upstart Amstel Gold Race is the youngest of the classics and probably the most nerve-wracking. Westerly winds buffet the low-slung hills of the Netherlands’ Limburg region, which plays host to the Dutch classic on Sunday. With rain in the forecast and temperatures around 50F, this weekend’s 256km Amstel Gold Race could be a very sloppy affair.
The Tour of Flanders and Roubaix lie behind the peloton, and the big, brawny cobbles-bashers step aside for a new style of rider to take over as AGR opens “Ardennes week.”
This week in the hills of eastern Holland and Belgium offers the climbers three chances for classics glory. But the GC riders capable of winning a grand tour will have their best shot later in the week, as La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège are better suited for the likes of Cadel Evans or Andy Schleck.
Amstel Gold Race winners are typically riders who are nimble enough to climb, but still pack a punch at the end of seven hours of racing. Puncheurs such as Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Gilbert are all ideal for this terrain.
All three will line up as legitimate favorites for victory, though Gilbert has admitted he’s not even close to the same level as he was last year when he swept through Ardennes week, making him only the second rider to ever win Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège in the same year. (The
To read the whole story, visit here: http://velonews.competitor.com/2012/04/news/preview-valverde-gerrans-square-off-again-at-amstel-gold-race_213519