With the cobbles in the pro peloton’s rear view mirror, Ardennes Week kicks off on Sunday with Amstel Gold Race in the Limburg region of the Netherlands. After next Wednesday’s Fleche Wallonne and the fourth Monument of the season, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, next Sunday, the men’s WorldTour becomes more stage race oriented, with only a single one-day race scheduled until early August. Both men’s and women’s Amstel Gold contests can be seen on FloBikes.
The Men’s Race
The men’s race has 35 taxing hills to ride over 265.7-km. Back in 2010 when the race used to finish on the iconic Cauberg, Canadian Ryder Hesjedal was runner-up to Philippe Gilbert.
The race begins with three big laps, each containing the mighty Cauberg. The final 16-km lap sees the riders face the Geulhemmerberg and the Bemelerberg, the latter of which crests 7-km from the finish in Berg en Terblijt.
With his win in Wednesday’s De Brabantse Pijl, Mathieu van der Poel (The Netherlands/Corendon-Circus) forwards himself as a top contender.
Clearly, four-time champion Philippe Gilbert (Belgium/Deceuninck-Quick Step) is a hot favourite after his Paris-Roubaix win. You might want to wager on the riders van der Poel beat out on Wednesday’s De Brabantse Pijl: Tim Wellens (Belgium/Lotto-Soudal), Michael Matthews (Australia/Sunweb) and Julian Alaphilippe (France/Deceuninck-Quick Step), who bounced back nicely from crashing out of the Itzulia Basque Country.
Also coming back from abandoning the Itzulia Basque Country after crashing is 2015 titlist Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland/Sky).
All three riders on last year’s podium, winner Michael Valgren (Denmark), Roman Kreuziger (Czech Republic), and Enrico Gasparotto (Italy) now race for Dimension Data. Kreuziger claimed the 2013 title and Gasparotto bagged the 2012 edition.
Michael Woods was 20th in the only time he raced Amstel Gold.
Guillaume Boivin is penciled in for Israel Cycling Academy.
Amstel Gold Race Ladies Edition
The women have 19 climbs in 127-km. One big circuit leads to three smaller ones, each containing the Geulhemmerberg, the Bemelerberg and the Cauberg, with the finish line 1.8-km from the top of the final passage of Cauberg.
Chantal Blaak (The Netherlands/Boels-Dolmans) is back to defend her title against 2018 podium companions Lucinda Brand (The Netherlands/Sunweb) and Amanda Spratt (Australia/Mitchelton-Scott). WorldTour leader Marta Bastianelli is skipping the race, but she won’t worry about her lead, as second place Kirsten Wild is also foregoing Amstel Gold and third place Annemiek van Vleuten (The Netherlands/Mitchelton-Scott) is 310-points in arrears.
— Mitchelton-SCOTT (@MitcheltonSCOTT) April 18, 2019
Brit Lizzie Deignan marks her return to the pro peloton after maternity leave, ready to contest her first race for new squad Trek-Segafredo.
It’s time to pin a number on again, it’s been a whirlwind 7 months since the arrival of our daughter Orla but I feel ready to start racing again. My first race will be @Amstelgoldrace I am excited to join @TrekSegafredo and get started 😁 pic.twitter.com/8Rv2DHDq8H
— Lizzie Deignan (@lizziedeignan) April 9, 2019
There are three Canadians on the tentative start list: Brand’s teammate Leah Kirchmann, eighth in Wednesday’s Brabantse Pijl; Alison Jackson (Tibco-SVB) and Gabrielle Pilote-Fortin of WNT-Rotor Pro Cycling.