The peloton at the 2021 Amstel Gold Race.

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

Van der Poel, Pidcock, and Dumoulin are among the many big names expected to line up at the Amstel Gold Race.

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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.

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.

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

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

With 2021 winner Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) set to miss the race as he continues to recover from COVID-19, his longtime rival Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) looks like a fitting favorite on home roads.

Mathieu van der Poel at the Tour of Flanders.

Three years after his dramatic 2019 victory, Van der Poel will have the Dutch 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 and 2015 winner Michal Kwiatkowski.

Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco) is an intriguing name for the Amstel Gold Race considering his speed. Long gone are the days of yore when the race finished atop the Cauberg; a reduced sprint is possible in 2022. Following the moves that Van der Poel and Pidcock are likely to launch won’t be easy, but Matthews has been on the podium in this race before, and if he can hang on, he’s a real contender.

Jumbo-Visma may be without the 2021 winner, but the squad will still have quite a few options for the Amstel Gold Race with a deep lineup that features Tom Dumoulin, Tiesj Benoot, and Christophe Laporte. As of Friday, Laporte has the shortest odds; I’d be a bit surprised to see him hang on over so many tough climbs but if he does, he has the sprint to contest the win.

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 a Bahrain Victorious squad that may fly a bit under the radar despite having firepower in Dylan Teuns and Jack Haig. Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates) has looked very strong in limited racing appearances so far this year and seems like a great bet to nab a result at the Amstel Gold Race; his teammates Juan Ayuso and Matteo Trentin could also factor.

Michael Valgren (EF Education-EasyPost), Søren Kragh Andersen (DSM), Benoit Cosnefroy (AG2R Citroën), Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ), Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) are others to watch.

CyclingTips star ratings

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: Van der Poel
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: Pidcock
⭐️⭐️⭐️: Mohorič, Matthews, Hirschi, Van Baarle
⭐️⭐️: Laporte, Dumoulin, Benoot, Asgreen, Teuns
⭐️: Kragh Andersen, Wellens, Valgren, Haig, Stybar, Madouas

When to watch

The Amstel Gold Race will roll out from Maastricht at 10:26 am local time (4:26 am ET/9:26 am BST/6:26 pm AEST). With so many potential launching pads throughout the race, it’s very hard to say when the decisive moves will go, but tuning in for the second trip up the Cauberg with a little over 90 km to go seems wise. The peloton will make that ascent at roughly 2:30 pm local time (8:30 am ET/1:30 pm BST/10:30 pm AEST).

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