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AMSTEL’21: Who Will Take the Beer?

Dutch Classic preview

Amstel Gold Race Preview: Holland’s only one-day Classic was cancelled in 2020 and nearly didn’t happen this year, but with a closed circuit and no fans, the Amstel Gold Race will go ahead this Sunday. Ed Hood gives us his ‘lowdown’ on the race and the likely ‘Top Men’ for the Dutch Golden Race.

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No fans roadside in Amstel’21

Amstel Gold – isn’t that a beer?
Indeed, the brewery was founded in Amsterdam in 1870 ; ‘A sturdy, full-flavoured beer with a definite taste of fruit and hops, 7.0% ABV.’ But it’s also the name of the river from which Amsterdam takes it’s name, flowing from Drecht to Amsterdam, some 31 kilometres.

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The Amstel brewery

Wasn’t there another Euro brewery sponsored a big race?
That would be the GP Henninger Turm [tower] in Frankfurt which was sponsored by the Henninger Brewery from its inception in 1962 for 46 years. When the company pulled out they said it was an economic decision but most believed it was because of the damning drugs revelations in German cycling of the day. The race continues now as the Eschborn-Frankfurt.

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That other beer – Henninger

Isn’t the Amstel just a criterium, this year?
You could say that but don’t bring your crit. bike with a ‘straight through’ cassette and close ratio chain rings – it’s on a savage 14.9km circuit covered 13 times – a race watcher’s dream if it’s a good day, you have a good spot and plenty of the sponsor’s product in the cool box. Each circuit includes the Geulhemmerberg, Bemelerberg and Cauberg ascents with the last climb the Bemelerberg, coming six kilometres from the line; so that’s just the 38 climbs then. Scotland’s Robert Millar used to refer to the race as; ‘the Tour of the Roundabouts,’ the original parcours was so sinuous, technical and dangerous. The pandemic has made the organisers re-draw the route however and it is indeed a ‘circuit race.’

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Amstel’21 course and profile

Give us some stats then. . .
This will be edition 56 of the event with Dutch riders winning 18 times thus far and Belgians 13, the only ‘Anglo’ to win was Aussie, Phil Anderson in 1983 but a certain Lance A**strong was twice second, in ’99 and ’01. ‘Recordman’ on five wins, one second place and one third – seven podiums – is ‘hard as’ 70’s Home Boy, Jan Raas – the joke was that it had become the ‘Amstel Gold Raas.’ But the man with the second most wins, four, is still active, Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert – can he get up to equal Raas’s five wins? No. Curly haired 90’s/00’s Home Boy, Michael Boogerd merits a mention too, with a win, three second places and two third spots.

Phil Anderson had been knocking on the door of success for a few years before he won the Amstel Gold race in 1983. His win started the ball rolling for the other English speaking riders of the time; Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche, Robert Millar and a little later Greg Lemond. Pic:CorVos/PezCyclingNews.
Phil Anderson won in 1983

Valkenburg - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - Amstel - Gold Race - Michael Boogerd (Ned-Rabobank) - Paolo Bettini (Ita-Quick Step) - foto Marco Ferrageau/Marketa Navratilova/Cor Vos ©2007
Michael Boogerd attacking in 2007

Isn’t this the race where MVDP caught the break in the finish straight then won the sprint without missing a beat in last year’s edition?
Right description, wrong year, that was 2019, the race fell victim to the pandemic last year – but Van Der Poel’s win was a thing of beauty, for sure. The race had been Alaphilippe’s to lose – and that’s just what he did, stalling for the sprint as the MVDP express heaped on the coals.

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‘Don’t look at me!’

Can the big Home Boy win again this year?
Nope, he’s been in the shed, hauled out the MTB, given it a wipe down and is preparing for the Novo Mesto mountain bike World Cup in May before coming back to the road for the Tour de France in July. The Olympic MTB race in Tokyo at the end of July is one of his goals for the year.

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Not this year

Who’s been winning the race over the last few years?
MVDP in 2019 as we’ve said; in 2018 it was the Dane Michael Valgren who took the honours but his recent form doesn’t suggest a repeat?

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Maybe not this year for Valgren

In 2017 it was Philippe Gilbert grabbing his fourth win, he was 34 years-of-age then and second oldest winner at that time behind the remarkable Joop Zoetemelk who won at 40 years-of-age in 1987; another four years down the line it’s unlikely the Belgian can challenge the ‘New Wave’ of riders.

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Joop Zoetemelk – The oldest Amstel winner

Now retired, Enrico Gasparotto won in 2016, the little Italian had a great record in the race with two wins and two third places.

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Top record for Gasparotto in Amstel

Michal Kwiatkowski gave Poland her only win in the race in 2015, he was also second in 2017; he rides this year but his INEOS – Grenadiers squad is likely to be, ‘all for Tom’ – of whom, more in a moment.

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World champion Kwiatkowski won in 2015 – Can Alaphilippe do it in 2021?

In 2014 it was Gilbert; 2013 winner, Roman Kreuziger will be on the start line in the colours of Gazprom-RusVelo a repeat win would make someone a millionaire for a lowly stake at the bookies. In 2012 it was, ‘Gaspa’ with Gilbert the victor in 2011 and 2010.

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It was a long time ago when Roman Kreuziger won Amstel

What about this ‘New Wave’ then?
Aforementioned ‘Tom,’ as in ‘Pidcock’ [INEOS – Grenadiers & GB] coped well in Flanders until the thermo-nuclear weapons were deployed, late in the day. This race is much shorter at 219 kilometres and the parcours will suit his slight build – a podium is well possible for the talented 21 year-old, 58kg Englishman.

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Amstel – Next up for Pidcock

As demonstrated by the palmarès of recently retired Romain Sicard, a world u23 road race title is no guarantee of success in the WorldTour – but there have been no such problems for 22 year-old Swiss 2018 World u23 Road Race Champion, Marc Hirschi who’s moved seamlessly up through the ranks to become a Classic winner in the 2020 Flèche Wallone. He started his season late with the objective of peaking for the three ‘Ardennes’ races, this being the first of them – he won’t be far away.

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Marc Hirschi should be at the front end in the finalé

Another young ‘Brit’ who the parcours will suit is 22 year-old Simon Carr [EF Education – Nippo], he impressed us at the Strade Bianche. At just 53kg. – the kind of weight best suited to all those climbs – 24 year-old Frenchman on the rise, David Gaudu [Groupama – FDJ] comes off an excellent Tour of the Basque Country where he won the final stage; his combative style is well suited to this race

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Stage 6 win for Gaudu in the Basque Country

And are all the big guns apart from MVDP there then?
Pretty much. Artillery doesn’t get much heavier than the World Champion and effervescent Frenchman, Julian Alaphilippe [Deceuninck – Quick-Step] will be out to make amends for throwing the race away, two years ago.

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It would be nice to see Alaphilippe win in the rainbow jersey

Belgian ‘jack of all trades – and master of them all,’ Wout Van Aert will be there backed by a hugely strong Jumbo-Visma team which also has 2020 Liege-Bastogne-Liege and recent Tour of the Basque Country winner, Primoz Roglič plus Danish star on the rise, Jonas Vingegaard who won Coppi e Bartali and was second to Roglic in the Basque Nation.

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Can Roglič turn stage race form into Classics form?

On the subject of Danes, Jakob Fuglsang has been quiet this year but remember that the Astana man won Lombardia last year and Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 2019.

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Fuglsang has been quiet so far this season

Esteban Chaves [Team BikeExchange & Colombia] has re-found his mojo and has won a Classic before, Lombardia in 2016; he’s performed strongly in both Catalunya and the Basque Nation – at 55kg. he’s another who has the kind of power to weight ratio a podium finisher in this race requires.

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Chaves has the form – Stage win in Catalunya

Who does PEZ soothsayer, Vik say will win?
The postponement of Paris-Roubaix affected him badly, he’s been sedated since the announcement and not available for comment. However, if I had to name one name?

Alaphilippe.

But keep an eye on Wednesday’s Brabantse Pijl for clues as to who else is ‘hot.’

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Ed’s bet for Amstel – Alaphilippe

# And for our refreshment of choice we can’t go past the race sponsor’s product. . . Stay PEZ for the Race Report on Sunday, and for live action go to SteepHillTV. #

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