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Amstel Gold Race
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Written by Wicky (2005-03-01 00:00)
Translated by DZI (2006-01-31 15:46:00)

The pride of Dutch cycling. Other countries have several classics, the Netherlands just have to settle for the Amstel Gold Race. While this race is in the lowest ProTour class, category four, many Dutch people think this is one of the great classics. Usually long routes of more than 250 kilometres, right through the pittoresque landscape of (often steep) hilly province of Limburg. A quick look at the leaderboard will enhance that great character of this classic race. Big cycling names like Merckx, Hinault, Zoetemelk, Museeuw, Knetemann and Raas (5x!) have won this race in the past.

The Amstel Gold Race was ridden for the first time on 30th of april 1966. At first the finishline was drawn in Meerssen and Maastricht. Nowadays the finish on the Cauberg is the climax in the race, but the riders have to ascend it three times in total. With many turns, twists and double climbs in the process, the total number of climbs comes to 31 in the Gold Race.

In that first edition, the route was a “monsterrace”, with more than 300 kilometres from Breda to southern Limburg’s Meerssen. After a race of nearly eight hours, Frenchman Jean Stablinski is the first to cross the finishline in Meerssen. Stablinski was personally responsible for the lead group, Peter Post being one of his fellow riders. Finally Stablinski won the two man sprint with Belgian teammate Van de Kerckhove. Local hero Jan Hugens gets third place five seconds later. His bike broke down with only a few hundred metres to go which made it impossible for him to win this first edition.

Being a relative young classic, in comparison to Milan - Sanremo for instance, this race still fills the Dutch with pride and is certainly not the least of all classics. From the first edition of the race, the peloton has always had its share of big names. That’s probably why the race is held in such high regard with the Dutch and the organisers are very glad to have such an interesting field at the start. But the lack of history is also the reason why this race is in the lowest class.

Nevertheless, the many climbs deliver climaxes throughout the race, the race is always thrilling to watch, not just for the hundreds of thousands of spectators along the route. Let’s just hope the coming edition of the Amstel Gold Race isn’t shrouded in mist like the 2005 race where we barely saw Michael Boogerd leading teammate Freire to a sprintfinish, only to end up a victim to Danilo Di Luca who took advantage of the situation and came out on top first.

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