2010 Amstel Gold Race Preview: Mother Nature Weighs In
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Saturday, April 17, 2010

2010 Amstel Gold Race Preview: Mother Nature Weighs In

by Steve Jones at 2:57 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Amstel Gold Race

Beginning with the Brabantse Pijl in Belgium earlier his week, the peloton has made the transition from the cobbled Classics to the Ardennes Classics, which officially begin with tomorrow’s Amstel Gold Race.  The route will see the peloton criss-cross The Netherlands on narrow, twisting roads as they take in a total of 31 climbs over the 257 kilometer route.  Last year’s fourth place finisher, Philippe Gilbert, describes the parcours as a Tour of Flanders without the pavé.

This year’s race will be over before it started for some of the favorites, with the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull glacier in southern Iceland preventing the Caisse d’Epargne duo of Alejandro Valverde and Luis León Sanchez from arriving in Holland, with both leaving it too late to make alternate plans for travel.  Ash from the volcano has blanketed northern Europe forcing all of the airports in the area to put a freeze on flights with the debris posing the risk of engine problems.  Briton Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) and the Cervélo TestTeam pair of Carlos Sastre and Volodimir Gustov were also stranded, however weren't expected to be present on the finishing podium.

Omega Pharma-Lotto captain Phillip Gilbert will start the race as one of the top favorites for victory in Valkenburg.  After his third place in the Tour of Flanders, he skipped Paris-Roubaix to focus exclusively on the Ardennes Classics.  He finished a strong fifth in the Brabantse Pijl, and has ridden consistently all spring.  His team has yet to secure a win in 2010, but with so many near misses by Gilbert, the drought is likely to end soon.  For support Gilbert will have Jean-Christophe Peraud and Jurgen Van den Broeck, two riders the Belgian has said he has a lot of confidence in.

Katusha will start the race with one of the strongest teams, including last year's winner Sergei Ivanov, who will be supported by Alexandr Kolobnev, Joaquim Rodriguez and Filippo Pozzato.  Of the Russian team’s four leaders, Rodriguez has proven to be on the best form, but Pozzato’s recent illness could see the Italian’s fitness bounce back in time to put him in with a chance.  Kolobnev, who finished sixth last year, has also shown he’s in good shape.  Ivanov hasn’t had a big result yet this season, but as defending champion he shouldn’t be counted out.

The Dutch Rabobank team will look to the duo of Robert Gesink and Oscar Freire for the win in their home Classic.  Gesink finished third last year and to win at home is a super motivation for the young talent.  Triple world champion Freire was uncharacteristically outspoken earlier this week, and said he wanted to be the sole leader for the team, and bring them their first win in the event since Erik Dekker’s triumph in 2001.  Nobody can argue with Freire’s ability to finish off a race, and if he’s feeling as good as he did when he won Milan-Sanremo, he will come through tomorrow.

Saxo Bank has been on a tear lately and will also bring a team capable of riding to victory in tomorrow’s race.  They will start the brotherly threat of Andy and Frank Schleck, with the latter winning the 2006 edition of Amstel Gold, and also riding on the emotional high of becoming a father earlier in the week.  The brothers will also have the strong duo of Jakob Fuglsang and Jens Voigt, along with Niki Sørensen, who finished fifteenth last year.  They will enter the race with a potent combination of morale and talent on their side.

Young talents Roman Kreuziger and Vicenzo Nibali both finished the 2009 edition in the top twenty.  Now a year later, both riders should see incremental improvements in their strength at the end of a long Classic, putting them within reach of a high placing.  The Czech has already had a strong start to his season with a win in the Giro di Sardegna and a fourth overall in Paris-Nice, with Nibali also steadily building his form.

The Belgian Quick Step team will look to a Frenchman and a Spaniard for their Amstel Gold Race chances.  Sylvain Chavanel skipped Paris-Roubaix in order to focus on the Ardennes trio of Classics, but hasn’t shown the form that he had a year ago.  Carlos Barredo will look to compliment his teammate and, with last year’s win in the Clasica San Sebastian, will bring with him new-found confidence that could help him to excel.

Chris Horner (RadioShack), Maxime Monfort (HTC-Columbia), Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Farnese Vini), Thomas Voeckler (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) and Xavier Tondo (Cervélo TestTeam) have all shown recent good form, while Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil) and Karsten Kroon (BMC Racing) will both be super motivated to ride well on home soil.

When the peloton hits the Eyserbosweg for the second time tomorrow, the 28th of the 31 climbs, it should prove to be a decisive point in the race.  It is one of the most difficult challenges of the day at 1000 meters in length, with an average gradient of 8.8 and a maximum of 16.7 percent.  With just 30 kilometers remaining until the finishing climb of the Cauberg, anyone missing from the front group will have missed their chance for gold.


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