Lotto Belisol: Preview Amstel Gold Race
Sunday the first of three consecutive WorldTour climb classics takes place: the Amstel Gold Race. The start of the 251.1 kilometers long race is given in Maastricht. After 54 kilometers there’s the first of four passages on the Cauberg. By then already five hills will have been covered. There are 34 climbs in total on the route, that make about 4000 height meters. The Cauberg returns at 88 and 20 kilometers from the end. After the penultimate ascent the Geulhemmerberg and Bemelerberg are next. Finally the riders have to get over the Cauberg one more time. Since last year the finish lies 1.8 kilometers after the top.
Lotto Belisol goes to the Amstel with a strong team, with men like Bart De Clercq, Tony Gallopin, Jurgen Van den Broeck and Jelle Vanendert. Dutchman Pim Ligthart can also show himself in the only WorldTour one day race of his home country. The riders that will battle with them on the way to Valkenburg for the victory in the 49th Amstel Gold Race are first of all last year’s winner Roman Kreuziger and Philippe Gilbert, who was the best in 2010 and 2011. Also Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez will stand at the start.
Better than last year
Jelle Vanendert: “The Vuelta al País Vasco was the ideal preparation for me with the upcoming Ardennes classics. There was a high pace the whole time and that was good to get race rhythm. I want to ride the final of the Amstel. In 2012 I became second. Last year I was part of the group that battled for the second place behind winner Kreuziger and then I got 13th. So it can all be close together. I’m better now than at this point last season. Since last year the finish doesn’t lie on the Cauberg anymore, but if you’re away with a group that doesn’t have to be a disadvantage. You don’t have to be the best puncher to win. Within the team we don’t have an exact hierarchy yet, tomorrow we will have a team meeting. The best would be that we can enter the final with three riders. We are different types of riders, with different qualities and we have to make the correct choice on the moment of truth. Tony Gallopin has fast legs as an extra weapon for example.”
The course suits me
Tony Gallopin: “The Amstel should suit me best, but because of circumstances I wasn’t able to perform as well as I wanted in my past two participations in 2011 and 2013. That the finish now lies after the top of the Cauberg is an advantage. The Brabantse Pijl has taught me that something’s possible for Sunday. I don’t think you should ride the Vuelta al País Vasco as preparation for the Ardennes classics if that isn’t your only focus. I’m also the type of rider for races like Milan-Sanremo, the E3 Harelbeke and Tour of Flanders. After that I took some rest. I’ve already got the long distance in my legs, that can be an advantage as well. At this moment in my career I can’t do any big predictions, I aim for top ten.”
Podium as a goal
Jurgen Van den Broeck: “I rode the Vuelta al País Vasco and Brabantse Pijl. In Spain I got the feeling I can take part in the races again. The Brabantse Pijl has given a boost to the entire team because we set a strong collective performance and didn’t miss any break. We have to go into the final with at least three riders. I’m not a puncher. If we get over the Cauberg with a group or I start at the foot of the Cauberg with a gap there are chances. The race will be successful for the team if we set a good result, have made the race, have been spared from bad luck and stood there as a team. A top ten place is important to score points, but we have to aim for a podium place.”
Selection Lotto Belisol: Bart De Clercq, Tony Gallopin, Pim Ligthart, Jurgen Van den Broeck, Tosh Van der Sande, Dennis Vanendert, Jelle Vanendert and Tim Wellens.
Sports directors: Herman Frison and Bart Leysen.