Attackers encouraged with changes to Amstel Gold Race finish
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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Attackers encouraged with changes to Amstel Gold Race finish

by Ben Atkins at 10:08 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Amstel Gold Race
 
Organiser Leo van Vliet closes the gap between the Keutenberg and Cauberg

amstel gold raceThe route of the Amstel Gold Race is to undergo a small, but critical, change this year, which will see the distance between the final two climbs reduced by more than two kilometres. The Dutch WorldTour race, which is the opening round of what has become the ‘Ardennes Triple’ – along with Belgian races Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège – has finished atop the Cauberg climb on the outskirts of Valkenberg since 2003; more often than not the result has been decided by a sprint up the final climb, with breakaways rarely succeeding, which is the rationale behind this latest course change.

“At the end of the Daalhemmerweg the riders will see the Cauberg immediately before them,” said race director Leo van Vliet. “I am convinced that this redrawn final section will encourage exciting riding because attackers are much more likely to succeed”

“In the past, escapes on or after the Keutenberg were created mostly on the flat section before the Sibbergrubbe but were caught in the run up to the Cauberg,” he reasoned. “Now, anyone who escapes before the descent of the Daalhemmerberg has the opportunity to recover before the final climb of the Cauberg begins.

“Also,”added the former professional rider, “the shorter distance between the Keutenberg and the Cauberg may tempt the daredevils to make a grab for victory.”

Prior to its switch to the Cauberg, the race – which is sponsored by Dutch brewery Amstel – finished in the nearby Limburg province capital Maastricht; the race finale would vary between breakaways, small select groups of favourites, and outright bunch sprints. In the nine editions since it has gone to breakaways just twice; the last time was 2007, when German Stefan Schumacher managed to escape, although Fränk Schleck’s victory the year before has been the only time to date that the Keutenberg’s gradients of up to 22% have proved decisive.

The 47th edition of the race will begin in Maastricht as usual, on April 15th; taking in 31 climbs in its 255.1km route, including the Bemelerberg, Gulperberg and Eyserbosweg, and three ascents of the Cauberg.

The last two editions have been won by Belgian Classics star Philippe Gilbert, with last year’s victory coming as the first of an incredible triple that also saw him win la Flèche Wallonne and in Liège.

The Limburg region will also play host to this year’s road World Championships between September 15th and 23rd, with the finish line coming 1.7km after the Cauberg’s summit.

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