The Ardennes Classics races get underway on Sunday and first up is the Amstel Gold Race, it’s a race with a rich history and unique in that the race was created by a brewery rather than the usual newspapers that formed races. Amstel brewery have been the title sponsor since the races creation in 1966.
Here’s a preview of the 2016 Amstel Gold Race.
2016 Amstel Gold Race Route
With the cobbled classics finished racing moves to the Ardennes for the 2016 Amstel Gold Race, it’s the first of three Ardennes Classics races and the terrain is the complete opposite of what we have had for the cobbled classics. There are 34 climbs in total for this years race and over 4,000 metres of climbing with racing on smooth asphalt. Famous climbs include the Cauberg which is done four times with final time being 1.8km from the race finish, the same as the 2012 road world championships.
The race this year is 258km long. The route, race profile pictured below.
2016 Amstel Gold Race Contenders
With the change from cobbled to Ardennes classics comes a whole new bunch of contenders with the exception of E3 Harelbeke winner, Michal Kwiatkoski. He’s the only cobbled classic winner that will start the Amstel Gold Race as one of the major favourites along with Michael Matthews, Philippe Gilbert, Tony Gallopin and Simon Gerrans.
Michael Matthews finished third at the Amstel Gold Race last year and I think he starts as the outright favourite after wins at Paris-Nice and Vuelta Ciclista a La Rioja as well as fifth at yesterday’s De Brabantse Pijl. Orica-GreenEdge bring a strong team to the Ardennes Classics with Simon Gerrans also an outright favourite, that will work into their favour near the finish.
Michal Kwiatkoski won here last year, he’s won the E3 Harelbeke classic only a few weeks ago so he starts as one of the outright favourites. Kwiatkowski had the perfect tactics last year holding back his effort on the Cauberg and then winning the bunch sprint 1.8km down the road.
Philippe Gilbert has an impressive record in the Ardennes Classics with five wins and two podiums and is one of only two riders to win all three Ardennes Classics in one season, Gilbert has had some trouble in the last week and starts the race with a broken finger and won’t be in as good a form as previous years with only two podium places in the last month. Gilbert last won Amstel Gold in 2014.
Tony Gallopin should be the team leader for Lotto Soudal but it’s possible Jelle Vanendert could be as well, in any case I think Gallopin has the better chance and had a strong third place at De Brabantse Pijl yesterday.
Simon Gerrans had a strong start to the 2016 season winning the Santos Tour Down Under and has had podium places at the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco last week. Gerrans has had three third place finishes at the Amstel Gold Race and won the 2014 Liège–Bastogne–Liège.
As well as …
Jelle Vanendert finished 2nd at Amstel Gold in 2012 and 2014 and has strong results in the other Ardennes Classics, he will start has one of Lotto Soudal’s two protected riders.
Rui Costa finished 4th here and at Liège–Bastogne–Liège last year so the former world champion will line up as one of the riders to watch.
Julian Alaphilippe finished 7th last year then 2nd at La Flèche Wallonne and Liège–Bastogne–Liège a week later, one of two 23 year old riders on Etixx – Quick Step who will light up the race.
Peter Vakoc is the other young rider on Etixx – Quick Step in with a chance of winning. Vakoc won yesterday’s De Brabantse Pijl and has had several wins earlier this season, he’s only 23 years old.
Sergio Henao has had impressive results in the Ardennes and will form a strong Sky team with Michal Kwiatkoski
Also watch out for Enrico Gasparotto, Fabio Felline and Daniel Moreno.
The race starts at 10:15am in Maastricht which is 7:15pm AEST Sunday, television coverage is on Eurosport and SBS.
Follow the 2016 Amstel Gold Race on twitter using #AGR