The organisers of the 47th Amstel Gold Race announced today a change to the finale of the April 15th event, one designed to heighten the drama leading into the final ascent of the Cauberg.
Race director Leo van Vleit has decided to cut out over two kilometers between the top of the Keutenberg, the second to last climb, removing the descent of the Sibbergrubbe and the loop through the center of Valkenburg.
By reducing the previous 12.3km section to 9.6km, there will be less chance for riders to chase back to the front if they are left behind on the Keutenberg.
Last year, Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek) attacked on the Keutenberg but Omega Pharma-Lotto's Jelle Vanendert was able to reel him in before the base of the Cauberg, where Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) counter-attacked, only to be left behind by the irrepressible Philippe Gilbert on the summit.
Van Vliet hopes the new finish will give those late attackers a better chance at staying clear to the line.
"I am convinced that this redrawn final section will encourage exciting riding because attackers are much more likely to succeed," said Van Vliet. "In the past, escapes on or after the Keutenberg were created mostly on the flat section before the Sibbergrubbe but were caught in the run up to the Cauberg. Now, anyone who escapes before the descent of the Daalhemmerberg has the opportunity to recover before the final climb of the Cauberg begins.
"Also, the shorter distance between the Keutenberg and the Cauberg may tempt the daredevils to make a grab for victory."
While the finale has been re-worked, the rest of the course is nearly identical to that of previous years. The race will start as usual at the market square in Maastricht and finish on the Cauberg in Valkenburg for a total of 255.1km with 31 climbs.
The 18 WorldTour teams will be at the start along with four already-announced wildcards: Project 1t4i, Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator, Accent-Willems Veranda’s and Landbouwkrediet-Euphony, and possibly two more to-be-announced teams.