2022 Amstel Gold Race, amstel gold race, Racing -

Preview: The route and the favorites for the 2022 men’s Amstel Gold Race

Preview: The route and the favorites for the 2022 men's Amstel Gold Race

Classics racing continues on Sunday with the Amstel Gold Race, as the peloton heads to the Netherlands for just over 254 km of action.

That’s right, the weekend after the Tour of Flanders will feature some of the hilliest roads in the WorldTour and not the cobbled roads of Paris-Roubaix, as elections in France compelled organizers to make some changes to the traditional calendar this year.

As such, we’ll be treated to the Amstel Gold Race and its many climbs this weekend, with plenty of big names set to do battle in the Limburg region of the Netherlands. Abby Mickey has the preview of the women’s event, which should be a great one. Meanwhile, here’s what you need to know about the men’s event at the Amstel Gold Race …

The route

The Amstel Gold Race will take the men 254.1 km from the historic university city of Maastricht to the finish line in the small town of Valkenburg. Along the way, riders will traverse a series of punchy climbs, many of which will be crested more than once on a course that loops back onto itself multiple times.

After already having traversed six climbs, the riders will make their first trip up the iconic Cauberg about an hour into the race. They’ll cross over the finish line and then embark on a wide loop through the surrounding area before tackling the Cauberg and passing through the finish a second time. Then they’ll take on a slightly less wide loop through the surrounding area before tackling the Cauberg and passing through the finish a third time with 21.3 km left to race. From there, the Geulhemerberg and the Bemelerberg await before the final crossing of the finish line.

Max Schachmann, Tom Pidcock, and Wout van Aert in the 2021 Amstel Gold Race.

The constant up-and-down will wear away at the pack over the course of the day, but it’s that last trio of the Cauberg, the Geulhemerberg, and the Bemelerberg where the decisive attacks are most likely to fly. The Cauberg is an 800 meter ascent with an average gradient of 6.5%, and it features a stretch in the double digits that will be a tempting launching pad. Riders will crest the climb for the final time with 23.9 km still to go, however, which will make the subsequent visit to the Geulhemmerberg particularly interesting at 19.3 km to go. It’s only a 5% gradient but it’s a kilometer in length towards the end of a very long day.

Finally, there’s there Bemelerberg, just under a kilometer at about 4.5%. From the top, it’s only 7.3 km to go, and on Limburg’s famously tricky roads, that final stretch could see a late attacker hold off even a strong chase group.

The favorites

The start list remains provisional as of Wednesday, but we’re already pretty sure of quite a few stars expected to line up in Maastricht. 2021 winner Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) seems likely to miss the race as he continues to recover from COVID-19. In Van Aert’s absence, his longtime rival Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) looks like a fitting favorite.

Mathieu van der Poel at the Tour of Flanders.

Three years after his dramatic 2019 victory, Van der Poel will have the home fans optimistic for a Dutch winner. Van der Poel’s climbing legs and ability to put down powerful surges over short periods of time make an obvious contender on this profile, and he is clearly in form after the Tour of Flanders. He will be tough to beat on Sunday.

Tom Pidcock, last year’s runner-up, is probably the rider best-positioned to challenge Van der Poel. Pidcock is a great climber in his own right with a solid finishing kick. The Ineos Grenadiers will have plenty of firepower in the form of Dylan van Baarle, 2015 winner Michal Kwiatkowski, and Jhonatan Narváez.

Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl will hope to right the ship amid what has been a disappointing Classics campaign with the likes of Kasper Asgreen and Zdenek Stybar. Matej Mohorič will lead the way for Bahrain Victorious. Tom Dumoulin, Tiesj Benoot, and potentially Christophe Laporte give Jumbo-Visma plenty of big names even in the absence of Van Aert. Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco), Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates), Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies), and Michael Valgren (EF Education-EasyPost) are others to watch.

Stay tuned for a more thorough rundown of the Amstel Gold Race favorites as the start list continues to take shape.

Read More