The Ardennes Classics got an early start this year, with the Amstel Gold Race taking up the usual spot of Paris-Roubaix after a calendar swap.
The race is the biggest race day of the season in the Netherlands, and the opening of a trio of WorldTour hilly races in the low countries that also includes La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
While reigning champions Wout van Aert and Marianne Vos aren’t present at this year’s edition, the women’s and men’s Amstel Gold Race pelotons are still packed full of star names, including Mathieu van der Poel, Annemiek van Vleuten, and Tom Pidcock.
Find out what they had to say in Maastricht ahead of the day’s racing here.
“It’s going to be special. The year I won was crazy, I had the national champion’s jersey so that was maybe even more of a trigger for the fans, but it’s really psycho-minded here. It’s the first time in two or three years people are allowed alongside the course so it’s going to be a good atmosphere.
“For sure I know the race well because I trained a lot here when I was younger. So, I know the roads and all the climbs. Like I said, xxperience is important but the legs are more important.
“People will look at me a little bit but I think I’m less a favorite than I was at Flanders, which suits me better. Here at Amstel, it’s a bit different, with no cobbles… For sure it’s going to be a hard race, and I think we’ll see some different names in the front in the end.”
“I feel well rested after the altitude week. I had a quick stop over there and I’m excited to race.”
“It’s nice to know the parcours because its left, right, left, right and some small roads and it’s a bit like Flanders also. The position is quite important. For me the personal challenge is to make the difference on the sharp, short climbs So, for me the climbs here are two minute efforts, I need at least four minutes usually to make a difference with other riders.My favorite is a hard race so at least I’m going to suffer, it’s the same as Flanders. “
“SD Worx are the big favorites here. My team showed last week that they don’t forget about Movistar, three riders after the Koppenberg that gives us confidence for today.”
“I’ve been ill this week, which has been very frustrating in the least. I tried everything to stay healthy, but it just seems a bit like pot luck at the moment. But I’m on the start line and I’ll do my best today.
“This is a really nice race. I love riding around here. I love the race here. It’s kind of new for me because we didn’t do this course last year. So, I can use the experience of the other guys and try and enjoy it.”
“It’s a really cool race for us and there are so many crowds on the side and also family and friends, so I’m really motivated to race a good race here with my team.
“For sure Amstel suits me really good but I think the others also, so I’m always really motivated for this week…I’m really looking forward.
“Of course [Annemiek] is a big favorite and she is always a danger for us and the rest so for sure we need to watch out for her.”
“Hopefully today it’s better than last weekend. I was still feeling a bit of the sickness last week, but I’ve had a good week of rest so now hopefully I can put my full potential out there today.
“It’s a little bit diff race to last year obviously and the year before also. It’s a bit of a different run in to the climbs. Towards the last time up the Cauberg I think that’s where the action will happen.
“It’s hard to say because Mathieu also likes to go from far. It’ll be interesting to see what other team tactics are. We’ll try to play an attritional race today and then hopefully I can be in the final with the best and do my thing.”
“This one is a beautiful race, but I think it’s too hard for me. Of course, I’ll try my best but it’s going to be a hard race today. We’ll see how it is on the road. I think there will be a lot of attacks and we’ll want to be part of them.
“Hopefully we’ll be in the final and we can play our cards then. The parcours is quite different. I think it’s harder also than the years before when we had the same final.
“We were good in Flanders but we missed the first group and we were on the backfoot having to chase. We’ll try not to make that mistake again. We’ll try to force a move that anticipates the final before. We have riders to do that so we’ll try our best.”
“I’m very excited. It’s always great to race in your home country and with so many spectators it’s always special.
“It’s difficult because a lot can happen. A breakaway can go, it could be a sprint from a small group… It’s kind of an unpredictable race, I have to say, but that’s why it’s such a cool race. You can have so many different scenarios.
“Personally, it would be best for me to be in the breakaway and we have Balsamo for a sprint. We have different options as a team. The shape is quite good but to be honest it’s not the race that suits me the most, but I’ll make the most of it.”
“I started in Italy, first victory there. It’s hard to say how my shape is in these long races with this competition, but I’m happy I’m back and I feel good for today.
“For sure it will be super hard and I think at 60km to go we’ll enter some steep, short climbs after each other. For sure that will be the key part. You have to be in front there and there the main groups will go.”
“I’m really looking forward to it. This is the best race of the year. I’m back on the road and I felt pretty good last week [Volta Limburg Classic]. I hope I gained something and that I can ride a good ending.”