Netherlands' sole World Tour one-day race puts on the table an altered parcours for the 52nd edition, scheduled this Sunday.
The Ardennes Week is here, and as usual in the last years, Amstel Gold Race will have the honor of lifting the curtain. The 261km-long race starts from Maastricht and comes to a conclusion in Berg en Terblijt, taking the riders over a course which includes 35 short and punchy climbs (some with double-digit gradients), narrow and twisty roads and shifting winds which could very well spice up the day and wreak havoc long before the race hits its climax.
This year's novelty is that the last part of the course has been revamped by the organizers, who decided to take out the fourth ascent of the iconic Cauberg (800 meters, 6.5%), meaning that now Bemelerberg (900 meters, 4.5% average gradient) will serve as the final hill. Crested by the riders inside the last six kilometers and followed by a descent and a flat section, Bemelerberg could change the dynamic and complexion of the race, bringing more riders into contention at the end of the day, while at the same time forcing others to go out on the attack from afar.
Known also as "The King of the Cauberg", Philippe Gilbert is a rider for whom Amstel Gold Race has no secrets; a three-time victor at the Dutch classic (2010, 2011, 2014), he also won the World Championships over a course more or less similar, five years ago, all results that make him the living symbol of the famed climb.
The Quick-Step Floors rider, a winner of Ronde van Vlaanderen this season, will be motivated to leave his mark on the 52nd edition, even though the final part of the route is different than in the years he came out on top, and Cauberg role's – which features for the last time with 16 kilometers remaining – is expected to be downplayed.
Quick-Step Floors' strength in numbers has been put on display on several occasions at this season's spring classics, where the team took three victories and five other podiums, and our outfit will once again line up a roster comprising several riders who can play an important role in the closing stages of Amstel Gold Race.
Also making the squad headlined by the Belgian Champion for the event which will take place in the Limburg region are Gianluca Brambilla, Dries Devenyns, Bob Jungels (best young rider of Tirreno-Adriatico), Daniel Martin, neo-pro Maximilian Schachmann, Paris-Roubaix runner-up Zdenek Stybar and Petr Vakoč, who showcased his good form recently at Brabantse Pijl, where he finished second.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele