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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, April 16, 2016

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary

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Amstel Gold Race team news

This release came from Tinkoff:

Roman Kreuziger to lead Tinkoff at Amstel Gold Race, kicking off the Ardennes Classics 

After the cobblestone classics, which came to an end on Sunday with Paris-Roubaix, come the Ardennes Classics. Starting on Sunday with the Amstel Gold Race, while the classics to date suited the all-rounders and sprinters, the Ardennes Classics are much hillier in their profiles and therefore suit the climbers and stage race specialists.

Roman Kreuziger

Roman Kreuziger

Tour de France: the Inside Story

Sport Director, Steven De Jongh, was eager to see how the change of terrain would influence the races. “It’s a whole new peloton and type of rider in the Ardennes to what we have seen at the spring classics so far, and we’re excited to get this part of the season started after a strong cobblestone campaign.”

Not known for its hills, the Netherlands is generally more famous for its flat, windswept roads. This is not the case for the Amstel Gold Race – this year’s edition – the 51st in its history – has thirty-four short-yet-tough climbs in a 264km route that circles the southern-most part of the Dutch Limburg region, from its start in Maastricht to the finish on the Cauberg climb in Valkenburg.

Because the race brings a different kind of rider to it looking for the win, this first of the climbers’ classics should lead to some dramatic racing, De Jongh continued. “It should be an interesting race as some teams want to push for a sprint with fast guys, while others, like us, want to make it a hard race and to try to avoid a larger group finish. We’ll have to be aware of the late breaks that go clear and then see what happens on the Cauberg at the end.”

The route itself is a number of progressively smaller circuits, many of which take in the same climbs on as many as four occasions. The difficulty of the race can be attributed to a number of features, but perhaps the most important is the sheer number of climbs and the how little time there is to recover between each one. The climbs themselves are not especially difficult by alpine standards, but in the first 100km there are ten climbs, while in a little more than 50km, there are no fewer than nine climbs before the finish.

Looking at what it takes to win the race, Roman Kreuziger said: “I could say that the Amstel Gold is one of the craziest classic races. It's never calm, it's always up and down and the bunch is often very stretched. You need to get experience on that race, you need to ride year after year to learn how you can reach the finish with as much energy as possible. When I won in 2013 it was amazing to have Karsten Kroon in the team, a rider that lives in the area and knows exactly the time to make each move. He was a smart rider and it was a big school for us to have him in that race.

“I have now raced six times there, so I think I have acquired the required knowledge, I have the parcours engraved on my mind. When I won in 2013, the finish had already changed and I think that this new finish is a bit more difficult for a rider like myself because you have to be very fast. Nobody would go away alone or in two but instead you will have a group of 10-20 riders that then sprint for the victory.”

While much of the attention will be on the Cauberg, which is climbed four times, there are plenty of other climbs on the route to be feared. One such climb is the Eyserbosweg, coming just under 40km from the finish, the average gradient of the climb is 8.1% over its 1.1km distance, with a maximum gradient of 18%. Additionally, the Keutenberg is a fairly short climb but carries a brutal maximum gradient of 22% and it being fairly narrow, it is the climb where many riders launch their final attacks before the final climb of the Cauberg.

In addition to the climbs, riders will have to contend with a technically challenging course. The roads themselves are narrow and pass through residential areas – something which brings with it some challenges unique to this race. Because of the urban nature of some of the race and its course, riders will have to negotiate roundabouts, kerbs, chicanes, bollards, speed bumps and other traffic-calming measures. The Amstel Gold Race is well known for its crashes.

Tinkoff will be coming to the race with a strong team and an experienced leader, as De Jongh revealed the team members ahead of the race. “We head to Amstel Gold Race with one leader in Roman Kreuziger, and two other protected riders that will help look after him deep into the race but who are also capable of getting results here – Robert Kiserlovski and Michael Valgren.”

The Czech rider has had a strong start to the season, and rode strongly in support of Alberto Contador in last week’s Vuelta al Pais Vasco, in which Alberto won the overall GC classification. Having won this race in 2013, knowing full well the challenges it poses, as De Jongh noted in advance of the race. “Roman won here in 2013 and on this course having good knowledge of the race is important as the whole day you’re going up and down, left and right on small, twisty roads. You need to stay attentive all day with all the climbs, and Roman’s knowledge will be important for the others that are less experienced here.”

Joining Roman, Robert and Michael in Maastricht on Sunday will be Jesper Hansen, Jay McCarthy,  Evgeny Petrov, Yuri Trofimov and Pavel Brutt. All of the team has ridden well, playing a key part in Tinkoff’s success in the UCI WorldTour so far this season.

Roman Kreuziger added: “After Pais Vasco I am having a recovery week because we spent a lot of energy in a hard race under bad weather. The focus this week is on resting and recovering and a team soigneur is here with me for the massages. I don't know whether I will be able to repeat my victory by this is one of the big goals of the season and I have prepared for it and hope to be ready. In addition to be in good shape, you need to like these races to be successful. I consider them very nice and I'm happy to have competed there so many times. I'm always focused when I hit the start line in such classics.

“In what regards the squad that will support me, in that race we will be able to assess how Jay McCarthy performs after the training camp. Michael Valgren will do all three Ardennes classics and Amstel Gold suits him the most. We will have to be smart on Sunday and do our best. Our competitors will go there with ambitions as well and we will have to keep an eye on everybody." 

Here's Cannondale's Amstel Gold news:

The Cannondale Pro Cycling Team turns its attention from the bumpy northern classics to those of the hilly Ardennes region this weekend, with the first of the three classics on tap in the form of the Amstel Gold Race.

Two riders will make debuts for the Cannondale Pro Cycling Team at a classic — Nathan Brown and Toms Skujins. Tom-Jelte Slagter will lead the team through the Ardennes races, terrain the Dutchman favors, and for good reason. Slagter has finished in the top 10 at both Flèche Wallonne (5th in 2014, 9th in 2015) and Liège-Bastogne-Liège (6th in 2014).

Tom Jelte Slagter

Tom-Jelte Slagter

“The major objective of the year remains the Giro, but in the Ardennes races, our team is more adaptable to the terrain than the cobbled classics,” said Slipstream Sports CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “We’ve got a number of different options from Tom-Jelte Slagter, who should be the de facto leader, to an up-and-comer like Mike Woods, in for Flèche and Liege.”

Slagter finished ninth in this week’s Brabanste Pijl, a clear indication of good form moving toward Amstel Gold and the rest of the Ardennes contests.

“They are so long and super hard,” Slagter said of the upcoming races. “For me personally the climbs are perfect and I like the type of roads we race on. I really enjoy racing in this area.”

The Ardennes mark a change in the season with one day races that favor those with climbing prowess over raw power.

“It’s almost like a season shift within the season” said Cannondale Pro Cycling Team’s DS Charly Wegelius. “This is the first time you see these kinds of climbs come into the one day races. It’s a really exciting week.”

Skujins is excited to make his debut. “I'll be up against big boys. I've prepared the best I can and these races are the ones I aspire to do really well in and hopefully to podium in later in my career,” Skujins said. “These are the special one-days that everyone knows about and everyone watches. On the start line everyone is in the same situation. You get one chance, one shot at glory and you better make the best out of it — that's the beauty of one days. They are aggressive, unpredictable and much less scripted then stage racing. It's what I live for.”

Cannondale Pro Cycling for Amstel Gold Race: Alberto Bettiol, Nathan Brown, Simon Clarke, Alex Howes, Benjamin King, Kristijan Koren, Toms Skujins, Tom-Jelte Slagter

Lotto-Soudal's Amstel Gold update:

On Sunday 17 April 2016 the first of three ‘Ardennes Classics’ is scheduled. The 51st edition of the Amstel Gold Race will again be something for the real punchers. The Cauberg, well-known because of the World Championships in 2012, needs to be climbed four times. From Maastricht to Valkenburg the riders need to cover 251 kilometres and 34 hills in total.

The riders need to surmount six climbs as a warm-up before they cross the finish line for the first time after 54 kilometres. After that they will make a big tour of 100 kilometres which contains sixteen hills. A lap of 70 kilometres needs to be covered after passing the finish for the second time. This lap contains nine climbs. The peloton will be seriously reduced when it crosses the finish line for the third time. A final lap of about eighteen kilometres, three hills and a finish just after the summit of the Cauberg will determine who’ll win this year’s Amstel Gold Race.

In this Dutch Classic, Lotto Soudal will compete against Michal Kwiatkowski, the winner of last year. But also a lot of other riders such as Michael Matthews, Tom Dumoulin, Philippe Gilbert, Bauke Mollema, Joaquin Rodriguez and Jan Bakelants will certainly try to obtain the victory. Tony Gallopin and Tim Wellens give their preview of this race.

Tony Gallopin: “Last year I finished sixth in a sprint with about fifteen riders. I don’t think I was able to obtain a better result. A sprint after 250 kilometres is always different compared to a sprint in a stage race for instance. It won’t be easy to perform as well as last year. The preparation went fluently though, since Paris-Nice I was able to build up my condition with the coming races in mind. I felt really good in the Tour of the Basque Country despite the bad weather conditions. I catched a cold but I don’t think that will influence my performances.”

Tony Gallopin

Tony Gallopin

“Also in the Brabantse Pijl everything turned out well, although I’m disappointed because I was unable to obtain the victory. The goal was to drop the fast riders such as Michael Matthews and that plan worked. Unfortunately Petr Vakoc was too strong in the finale. This race was good for the confidence, I rode a lot of stage races this year and then participating in the Brabantse Pijl is tough, it’s a very explosive race.”

“The Amstel Gold Race is a different type of race compared to the Brabantse Pijl. It’s a WorldTour race of 250 kilometres, every team starts with the ambition to win the race and everyone is very focussed. I think all the riders know the course very well, my advantage is that I’m capable of fighting for the victory in two different ways. I can wait for a sprint or I can take the initiative and attack. Everything will depend on the race situation, which teams will pull at the front of the peloton, how good the legs are and so on.”

Tim Wellens: “I prepared myself differently for the coming races compared to previous years. Last year I was already in top condition in the Tour of the Basque Country, therefore I was unable to obtain nice results in the Ardennes Classics. Now I’ve chosen to pick a stage and to test the legs once or twice. The first goal of the season was to perform well in Paris-Nice, eventually I won the final stage which was very nice. I think I’m ready for the next goal of the season, the Ardennes Classics.”

“Last year I said I would be disappointed if I was unable to obtain a top ten place in one of the three coming races. Unfortunately I didn’t. It’s very difficult to predict the following races, although I think that I’m stronger than last year. I hope that the cobbled classics inspired the riders. The past few weeks, the fans were spoiled with aggressive and amusing races. Our team, which is in my opinion very strong, prefers to race in such way. We always want to attack early and ride aggressively. Hopefully the other teams think the same and then it’s possible that it will be a very attractive race.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Tiesj Benoot, Tony Gallopin, Pim Ligthart, Jürgen Roelandts, Marcel Sieberg, Tosh Van der Sande, Jelle Vanendert and Tim Wellens.

Sports directors: Herman Frison and Bart Leysen.

Giant-Alpecin sent this Amstel Gold update with rider quotes:

This Sunday Team Gian-Alpecin heads to the Dutch hills for the 51st edition of the Amstel Gold Race. The race favours the attacking riders who are both capable of sprinting and climbing, as the course is anything but flat. The constant rolling roads cover a total distance of 258km with 34 climbs to tackle, including the Cauberg, Gulpenerberg and Eyserbosweg.  

Warren Barguil (FRA) : "I am coming to Amstel Gold Race off the back of a hard week of racing in Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco. Although at the end of the week the fatigue starting to kick in but it was a good preparation to get me ready for the Ardennes campaign.

"For Sunday, the parcours is tough with the short, sharp climbs but I prefer races like these and I am very motivated to do well. I am anticipating the race to be decided at the Cauberg and I'll do what I can to be there. I think a top 10 result is realistic in one of the three Ardennes races and we have got the team to achieve this."

Tom Dumoulin (NED) : "I am really motivated to compete in my home race. I've had a good training period and I'm satisfied with my current level, as last Wednesday I felt good during the Brabantse Pijl finale.

"I expect tactically a closed race for Sunday, which has been the case in recent years. Only a select group of riders will compete for the win and normally I am not among them, I have to be realistic. I always go into a race with good expectations and a lot of ambition, and I am looking forward to Sunday."

Simon Geschke (GER): "We did a really good training ride out on the course yesterday. It was nice to be back on these roads and it helps to remind yourself of where the difficulties are.

"I am feeling good and hope that I can be in a good position to contest the finish on Sunday. As a team, we will need to ride well and we will aim for a top 10 finish."

Simon Geschke

Simon Geschke

Aike Visbeek (NED): "The weather forecast looks optimistic for Sunday therefore, I am anticipating a traditional Amstel Gold race. The section after the Kruisberg always is an important moment in the race and we need good teamwork to position our leaders ahead of the decisive climb, the Cauberg.

"On Thursday, we performed a good recon and the riders tested their legs on the climbs according to our training plan. Our guys showed they are eager to race and are looking forward to Sunday.

"The team leaders will be Warren, Simon and home rider Tom. Together with Roy as our experienced road captain, our aim is to focus on positioning ahead of the crucial climbs and we will target a top 10 result." 

Peter Sagan to do some mountain bike racing

This came from Tinkoff:

After a successful classics campaign, UCI World Road Race Champion Peter Sagan is looking to blow the cobwebs off his mountain biking skills. Sagan will make a brief return to off-road racing in Austria and the Czech Republic in his build up to the Amgen Tour of California next month.

Sagan, already a World Champion in the discipline as a junior in 2008, will race two mountain bike events, in Austria and the Czech Republic, in Tinkoff colours and aboard a Specialized S-Works Epic following his break after the classics campaign. Well known for his technical ability on any type of bike, Sagan will be hoping to pick up from where he left off a few years ago, with strong off-road performances before concentrating again on his road career.

“It’s going to be good fun returning to my roots, racing mountain bikes again and I look forward to seeing what shape I will be in at those races,” said Sagan when asked about what he expected. “I’m pleased with how my season has gone so far. My victories at Gent-Wevelgem and Ronde van Vlaanderen take the pressure off now, so I hope that I can go off-road and be able to compete at the front, like I do on the road. I'd like to thank the  team and our sponsors for helping me make this opportunity possible.”

"Peter has shown this spring what a star he is on the road and with the public, so to have this opportunity to take this to mountain bike fans too will be really nice," commented Stefano Feltrin, General Manager of Tinkoff, on Sagan's return to the roots. "It’s a good opportunity for Tinkoff to race its colours and showcase its partners in another discipline and we have every confidence in Peter that he will take the racing seriously and perform to his best, even if these races are just part of his build to the all-important goals for the rest of the season."

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary