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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, April 13, 2018

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Ardennes Classics are coming. Here's what the teams are saying

BMC sent me this Amstel Gold race preview:

12 April, 2018, Santa Rosa, California (USA): Greg Van Avermaet will line up at Amstel Gold Race this Sunday, 15 April, for his final race of the classics season.

Van Avermaet will be backed by a strong team of riders who are also capable of a good result, Sports Director Valerio Piva said. "Of course, we are lining up to win the race. Greg Van Avermaet is our leader but we also have Dylan Teuns who is in great shape and riders like Damiano Caruso, Simon Gerrans, and Alessandro De Marchi coming out of Vuelta al Pais Vasco in good shape. Gerrans has been on the podium on three occasions and we have riders who have lined up many times, so we have a lot of experience at Amstel Gold Race," Piva explained.

"Traditionally, the race is decided in the last 50km and this year the parcours has changed and the final has a different, more narrow approach. We have a strong and motivated team around Greg and our main goal will be to put him on the podium, but we have multiple cards to play on Sunday which gives us confidence going into the race."

Van Avermaet is determined ahead of his final classics race of the 2018 season. "Amstel Gold Race will be the last spring classic for me this year. I am always motivated to do well at the race because I like the parcours with the short climbs. We have a strong line up and I'm looking forward to racing on Sunday," Van Avermaet said.

Dylan Teuns

Dylan Teuns (shown winning a stage in the 2017 Tour de Wallonie) will be on the start line for the Amstel Gold Race

Teuns is looking forward to the Ardennes Classics after a strong showing at Vuelta al Pais Vasco. "I am feeling excited. I have been preparing for this block of racing for a long time and I am looking forward to the next ten days or so. It all starts with Amstel Gold Race and like the others, this is a race which should suit me and my strengths well. I think I can go into Sunday's race feeling confident in my shape and I am definitely motivated to do a good job for myself and for the team," Teuns said.

Amstel Gold Race (15 April)

Rider Roster: Alberto Bettiol (ITA), Damiano Caruso (ITA), Alessandro De Marchi (ITA), Simon Gerrans (AUS), Michael Schär (SUI), Dylan Teuns (BEL), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL).

Sports Directors: Valerio Piva (ITA), Jackson Stewart (USA)

UAE-Team Emirates sent this Ardennes update:

UAE Team Emirates will be competing in three World Tour races over the long week of the Ardennes Classics: the program starts with the Amstel Gold Race (Holland, April 15); then there is the Flèche Wallone (Belgium, April 18) and the Liege-Bastogne-Liege (Belgium, April 22).

The Emirati formation led by Sports Directors Joxean Matxin (Spain) and Daniele Righi (Italy) will try to make the most of the skills and experience of riders who already have a proven aptitude for these types of events.

Here are the seven athletes who will take on the three races: Matteo Bono (Italy), Rui Costa (Portugal), Daniel Martin (Ireland), Manuele Mori (Italy), Aleksandr Riabushenko (Belorussia), Rory Sutherland (Australia) and Diego Ulissi (Italy).

Dan Martin

Dan Martin (shown in his 2017 Quick-Step kit racing the Tour de France) will be racng the Ardennes Classics.

Daniel Martin has turned the Ardennes Classics into a strong suit for his competitive potential; during his career he has captured the 2013 Liege-Bastogne-Liege, a second place in the 2017 edition of the Doyenne and no less than 3 podiums in the Flèche Wallonne (second in 2014 and 2017 and third in 2016): “Training gone well since Volta a Catalunya despite the heavy crash on the last stage. I’ve been in good condition all season but bad luck prevented me from showing it in results. I feel ready to head into some of my favourite races.
The course of the Flèche Wallone looks a lot more difficult thank previous years and will make the final even more testing”.

Rui Costa has also often demonstrated his class in the Ardennes (fourth in the 2015 Amstel Gold Race, third in the 2016 and fourth in the 2015 Liege-Bastogne-Liege): “I wrapped up the Vuelta al Pais Vasco in increasingly better condition, so I’m coming to the Ardennes with high morale and I’m confident that I can race to bring the team some significant results. The competition in these races is always fierce, but UAE Team Emirates will bring high quality; it’s an advantage to be able to count on a strong group.”

Diego Ulissi has made it to the top 10 in the Flèche Wallonne three times: “the race with the Huy Wall has always been the one in which I’ve managed to best express myself; the Liege-Bastogne-Liege is the race that dreams are made of. I am highly motivated, the team is competitive, we will have several options we can use to try and make our sponsors and fans happy.”

Quick-Step Floors is headed to the Amstel Gold Race:

Julian Alaphilippe, Philippe Gilbert and Niki Terpstra are lining up on Sunday for Netherlands' only World Tour race.

The Ardennes Week is here, and as usual, Amstel Gold Race will lift the curtain. The 263km-long race starts from Maastricht, in the province of Limburg, and comes to a conclusion in Berg en Terblijt, taking the riders over a course which includes 35 short and punchy climbs (some with double-digit gradients), narrow and twisty roads and shifting winds which could very well spice up the day and wreak havoc long before the race hits its climax.

This year, the last part of the course has been again revamped by the organizers and could have a significant impact on the final. After avoiding the iconic Cauberg in the last kilometers of last season's edition, they now decided to take the peloton over a new descent from the Geulhemmerberg (1000m, 6.2%), the day's penultimate climb, which could give an advantage to the attackers, who later in the race will have also the undulating roads from the top of the Bemelerberg (900m, 4.6%) to try and foil the plans of those hoping to keep everything together.

Known also as "The King of the Cauberg", Philippe Gilbert is a rider for whom Amstel Gold Race has no more secrets; a four-time winner of the prestigious Dutch classic (2010, 2011, 2014, 2017), he also won the World Championships over a course more or less similar, six years ago, all results that make him the living symbol of the 900m-long climb which appears three times on the parcours. This year, the experienced Belgian will be again one of the contenders, as he'll be making his 13th outing in the Dutch Classic.

Philippe Gilbert

Philippe Gilbert wins 2017 Amstel Gold Race

Quick-Step Floors' strength in numbers has been put on display on several occasions in this season's one-day races, where the team picked up nine victories and six other podiums, and our outfit will once again line up a roster comprising several riders who can play an important role in the closing stages of Amstel Gold Race.

Also making the squad headlined by the defending champion are Julian Alaphilippe, a double stage victor earlier this month at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, Bob Jungels, Davide Martinelli, Enric Mas – who last week celebrated the first win of his career – Pieter Serry and Ronde van Vlaanderen champion Niki Terpstra.

"We are lining up with a strong squad, hoping that we can be in the mix when the race is decided and perhaps repeat last year's success. The final has changed again, so we will have narrower roads in the last kilometers, which can play in favor of the breakaway. Staying in front will be important as the roads make it hard to organize a chase", said sports director Wilfried Peeters. "However, it is not the race nor the route, but the riders who make the difference. Amstel is one of those races where you have to be awake at all times and there will be a lot of fighting for positions. Being in the right place at the right time makes the difference but to be there, you need not only to be smart but also to have the legs."

And finally, Mitchelton-Scott will be there. Here's their update:

Mitchelton-SCOTT are ready for the second phase of the classics period, the Ardennes races which kick off this Sunday with the 53rd edition of the Amstel Gold Race.

The Australian outfit has options within a diverse seven-rider squad which includes South African champion Daryl Impey, last year’s podium finisher Michael Albasini and former winner of the event Roman Kreuziger.

Roman Kreuziger

Roman Kreuziger winning Amtsel Gold Race in 2013.

The race
The 262kilometre one-day Dutch race features a total of 35 classified climbs scattered over three large laps, before a short finishing lap, which was a new amendment to the race in 2017.

The amended route means the riders head up the Cauberg climb and pass the finish line three times before heading out on a 16kilometre finishing loop which includes the Geulhemmerberg and Bemelerberg climbs.

With this new route, the race lends itself to being more active earlier, with the potential for the race winning breakaway forming as far as 45kilometres out.

The team
Michael Albasini - (SUI, 37)
Luke Durbridge - (AUS, 26)
Michael Hepburn - (AUS, 26)
Daryl Impey - (RSA, 33)
Chris Juul-Jensen - (DEN, 28)
Roman Kreuziger - (CZE 31)
Carlos Verona - (ESP, 25)

Matt White - Head Sport director:
“It will be only the second time that the Cauberg isn’t in the final of the race in the modern era.It doesn’t seem much, but it changes the race a lot. Forcing guys to look to be in moves a lot early than in the past. The hardest part of Amstel is around 45 kilometres  to go when four climbs come in close succession and the race winning  break is likely to go in this area.

“Amstel has been a happy hunting group for us in the past, we have been on the podium in the race multiple times and Albasini was on the podium last year. We are going to be competitive and we have guys who can get into the breakaway and get a result.

“For me there are two clear favourites for Sunday, Julian Alaphilippe (Quickstep-Floors) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), because both of them have shown they have incredible form and both will be confident of going to the line with nearly anyone in a sprint as well. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) is also on the start list so this also adds another dimension to the race.”

Roman Kreuziger
“Every classic is very special, from one point you hate it but on the other point you love it. It is full gas all day, you have to keep focused and it takes a lot of mental energy.

“With the team we have we have many options, it is a pity we won’t have Matteo Trentin there after his crash in Paris-Roubaix but with the experience from myself, Albasini and Impey we can play many cards and attack.

“We did the different finish last year with a short cut from the roundabout at the top before going straight to the finish, it makes the race different especially for the climbers. It makes it more interesting and makes the races start much much sooner.

“Even without the final climb of the Cauberg, the race will be reduced and I think we will come with maximum 15 - 20 riders to the finish line. I am very motivated, looking forward to the race and putting the numbers on my back.”

Daryl Impey
"Amstel is one of my favourite races, I have always liked it, it’s like being in an arcade game for six hours. It has so many elements to it and it isn’t so predictable which makes the race.

"You have to take your chance and I want to have a good result there. We have a strong team lining up and I’m looking forward to the start of the Ardennes."

Previously in Amstel Gold race
Last year Michael Albasini enjoyed his first podium finish in the event after  Philippe Gilbert (QST) and Michal Kwiatowski (SKY) escaped from a lead group in the latter stages of the race to finish first and second respectively, whilst Albasini won the sprint for third.

The Australian outfit has been on the podium on multiple occasions before with a third place from former rider Simon Gerrans (2013, 2014) and also Michael Matthews (2015).

In the team line-up this year is former winner Roman Kreuziger who is familiar with the race after claiming the victory in 2013 when he was riding for Team Saxo-Tinkoff.

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