2022 Amstel Gold Race – Preview – Ciclismo Internacional

By @EchelonsHub

A week earlier this year, Amstel Gold Race sees itself separated from the remaining Ardennes classics, however it opens up another period of the spring which sees the puncheurs come onto the screen. 

The Route

250 kilometers on a menu. A test of endurance, a race that features small but repetitive climbs in Limburg to make for what is one of the most unique days of the season. It is the first of the three Ardennes classics, and the one that suits the most the rouleurs and riders who are coming straight from the cobbled classics campaign. 

Climbs come thick and fast throughout the whole day, it is unlikely that serious action will come before the final hour though as it will be crucial to spend as little bullets as possible In order to have the legs towards the finale.  

Gulperberg (43Km to go; 60mm at 6%), Kruisberg (38Km to go; 700m at 7.3%), Eyserbosweg (36Km to go; 1.1Km at 7.6%), Fromberg (31Km to go; 1.7Km at 3.8%) and the Keutenberg (27Km to go; 1.6Km at 5.2%) will set things up and may see some attacks. Both in anticipation of the Cauberg, but also as some of the main favourites may find the right timing to make a move. Every climb provides an opportunity, and in these 16 kilometers you’ll see a lot of action off the front as it’s very hard to control. 

The Cauberg comes with 17.5 kilometers to go, it’s the climb that used to close off the race. It still is the last serious climb of the race, but the attacks have to be done earlier. 800 meters at 6.5%, which then see a set of rolling roads where to make differences will be very complicated, sense of opportunity will be more important than raw power at this point, unless if a sprint is to be expected – which is unlikely. 

The Bemelerberg is the final climb of the day, just 500 meters at 5.6% with 6 kilometers to go. It is a possible Launchpad but slipstreaming is very possible. From there on there will be some narrower roads, very fast all the way into Berg en Terblijt.  

The Weather

Temperatures around 10 degrees and only a small breeze from the west. It shouldn’t influence the race much, that final straight though is always one that can be tactically complicated, with no-one wanting to lead-out the sprint and this year there will be a small headwind which can influence a group sprint. 

Tactics 

This is usually complex but I will not make any complex situation. Van der Poel will attack, the only way he can win the race is by attacking, taking one or two more riders with him that will collaborate (Pidcock/Mohoric/Madouas good examples) so that behind the teammates of his group companions will stall the chase. 

Van der Poel has to do it early, he doesn’t have a bad team but if he waits then he will be on the backfoot against the depth of Ineos/Bahrain/Groupama. Attack early and force a group away. If it comes late and there are a few dozen riders within seconds after Cauberg, then a late attack from outsiders is likely to succeed. 

The Favourites 

Mathieu van der Poel – Safe to say there are no more questions regarding his form. Van der Poel has got good form, a strong sprint and a brilliant punch which is ideal for this race. He usually attacks and is not shy of working, if he finds the right group he can go for the win with no problem. However if little differences exist after the Cauberg he may be swarmed afterwards, so he must be tactically astute. 

INEOS – Tom Pidcock has had one of the most hotly debated losses last year when he finished second. Will he take vengeance over those millimeters that failed him? Maybe. INEOS can count on Dylan Van Baarle and Michal Kwiatkowski aswell, spearheading a very strong team. 

UAE – Marc Hirschi, Juan Ayuso and Matteo Trentin at the start. Three different types of riders, but all of them within a shot of taking a win here. It won’t be easy, obviously, neither is perfect for the race but UAE have depth and case use those cards to their advantage. 

Bahrain – Bahrain come in with a very strong team. In the cobbles they showed their depth power, specially in Flandres, and here that depth can play to their advantage even more. Matej Mohoric failed in Flandres, but in all honesty his win at Milano-Sanremo has took the pressure off him, here I see a very good race for his attributes. Fred Wright and Jan Tratnik have flown in the cobbles and will be equally as dangerous, whilst Dylan Teuns and Jack Haig provide for a very strong base to attack (or counter-attack) on the climbs throughout the day. 

Jumbo – Local big man Tom Dumoulin will be at the start and will be a big card to play for Jumbo, however with Tiesj Benoot and Christophe Laporte coming in straight for the cobbles, Jumbo have actually got a very strong lineup despite van Aert’s absence. Will they be able  

Groupama – Another team with good depth. Valentin Madouas and Quentin Pacher are carrying very strong form and will certainly be close to the front in the ascents, whilst Stefan Küng and Kevin Geniets provide further weapons, different scenarios but Groupama have it covered. 

Michael Matthews – Always there, but never in the spot to win. Matthews has what I call the Matthews syndrome (irony) which is when you’re a good sprinter and puncheur, but every race where you’re a favourite is a good race for attackers be it breakaways or attacks on the hills or a sneaky move towards the end, where the strongest sprinters in the group usually get forced into the front and with little collaboration. Anyways, with van der Poel on the start the pressure switched a little, and he may find a good opportunity. 

Benoît Cosnefroy – He’s had an alternative run-up to the race, having just finished second in the GC of the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe he’s showing good form and he’ll be under the radar surely despite his undeniable talent. 

Lotto Soudal – Tim Wellens and Victor Campenaerts are both very similar riders, who can make for an interesting combination. An ever-aggressive duo, they have a classic here where rouleurs have a good chance of succeeding. 

Additionally you will have more outsiders who can with no doubt get on the board for the fight for the win. It’s a rough classic, but the finale does favour the fast riders, if not for the win at least for a spot in the Top10 and the likes of Cofidis for Bryan Coquard and Movistar for Alex Aranburu and Ivan Cortina for example are teams who will want to contribute for a conservative race and would benefit from that.  

You’ve got some classics experts, with Paris-Roubaix after Amstel this year there are more riders coming in who are used to the long hours in the saddle that the race will provide, riders like Kasper Asgreen, Anthony Turgis and Soren Kragh Andersen have a very good chance of succeeding as they have the attributes needed for such a day, specially as a solo attack in the final kilometers would on paper be very hard to reel in. 

Some more puncheurs who come in as outsiders I will add: Warren Barguil who’s came off a strong win at GP Miguel Indurain alongside Connor Swift and fellow French Pro Team rider Franck Bonnamour; Ide Schelling, Michael Valgren and Samuele Battistella who have got the talent and surely riders who have freedom but aren’t on their best form, and the same will be said of Israel duo Simon Clarke and Jakob Fuglsang who on their best day can be at the very front, and can be a danger to the race. 

Prediction Time 

⭐⭐⭐Van der Poel, Pidcock 

⭐⭐Van Baarle, Mohoric, Tratnik, Laporte, Madouas, Matthews, Cosnefroy, Asgreen 

⭐Hirschi, Ayuso, Trentin, Wright, Teuns, Haig, Benoot, Pacher, Kung,  Wellens, Campenaerts, Coquard, Aranburu, Cortina, SK.Andersen, Turgis, Barguil 

I am going with Jan Tratnik to win Amstel Gold Race. You may think it’s a long shot but not at all, he was in the leading group at Milano-Sanremo, showed incredible form at Dwars door Vlaanderen and Tour des Flandres, and is in my opinion in the strongest team. Bahrain have a very strong lineup here which they can use very well, Tratnik should be able to climb next to the best and if he finds himself alone in front he’ll be very hard to catch. 

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Rúben Silva

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