Friday, 13 April 2012

Amstel Gold Race Sunday 15 April 2012

The Amstel Gold Race this Sunday in the Netherlands kicks off the Ardennes Classics week. The youngest of the three races used to favour sprinters, but recently goes in the way of attacking riders.

Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) won the race last year and started a record run, winning both Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège in the following week. The Belgian was only the second rider in history win all three in one year after Davide Rebellin in 2004.

The Amstel Gold ends in Valkenburg after nearly 250 kilometres with a sharp 1.2-kilometre rise up the Cauberg. Ahead of the Cauberg, though, the riders face a pretzel-like parcours that circles around the Limburg region and includes another 30 climbs

Amstel Gold Race 2012: The contenders
Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha)The Spaniard placed second last year and the top favourite with Gilbert out of tune. So far this year, he has won a similar undulating stage in Tirreno-Adriatico and two in the Tour of the Basque Country.
Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale)
Sagan is on the verge of winning a big one-day race, but it remains to be seen how he recovers from his crash in Brabantse Pijl.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
The Spaniard is one of the fastest sprinters on long courses with uphill finishes, just look to the Willunga stage of the Tour Down Under. He seems to be as good as he was in his golden years despite just coming off a doping suspension.
Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge)
The Australian is enjoying his best year yet with a wins so far in the Tour Down Under and Milan-San Remo. He has that Valverde-type sprint that's needed to win Amstel. Last year, he placed third behind Gilbert and Rodriguez.
Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing)
On Wednesday in Brabantse Pijl, the Belgian finally started to ride as he did last year. However, he still seems to lack that deadly punch and is bound for a lower podium step.
Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
If the Tour of the Basque Country is anything to go by, the Olympic Champion could win Valkenburg.
Cadel Evans (BMC Racing)
The Tour de France champ said that he will work for Gilbert, but he may be better off working for himself. So far, he is been the only one to deliver the goods for BMC this year.
Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD)
He will lead Italy's charge, with Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) and team-mate Michele Scarponi maybe making appearances. As a past winner and after a strong Basque Country showing, he's one the top favourites.
Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky)
He can sprint and climb, so he can win Amstel Gold. He has won two races so far this season, but doesn't seem brilliant lately and may be suffering from his Paris-Roubaix effort.
Oscar Freire (Katusha)
The Spaniard looked good on Wednesday in Brabantse Pijl and will be eager to show off in front of his former sponsor, Rabobank.
Thomas Voeckler (Europcar)
Voeckler won Brabantse Pijl on Wednesday with a gutsy solo attack. He may follow in Gilbert's footsteps with a Brabantse-Amstel double.