Steven Kruijswijk (Rabobank) will take part in his first Amstel Gold Race on Sunday. The 24-year-old Dutchman will compete in the complete trio of Ardennes races before taking a break and preparing for a debut at the Tour de France.
"This will be my first time at Amstel. I've done Fleche once, in my first year, but that's my only Ardennes experience. I'm really looking forward to it. They're really big races, especially Amstel, which is a really big race for the team. It's important for us to do well there," Kruijswijk told Cyclingnews.
Amstel is the biggest Dutch race on the calendar and as a result the Rabobank team always tries to put on a show for their sponsor and fans. With Robert Gesink and Bauke Mollema the team has two strong cards to play but the team has real depth, with Kruijswijk joining the likes of Matti Breschel and Lars Boom.
And while this will mark Kruijswijk's first venture into the Ardennes he has talked up his own chances of making an impression on the race.
"For myself, I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do in the Classics because the last two years I haven't done many but I want to see what I can do in the finals. I think these races can suit me," he said.
"We have a pretty strong team here and I think I can have my own chances. I don't have to wait for the finale of Amstel, which is maybe a bit too explosive for me but I hope to help the team, put them in a good position and maybe someone like Mollema can finish on the podium. It's possible I'll go a little bit early, we have to anticipate a bit and get as many guys as we can in the final."
After Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Kruijswijk will take a break from racing before building up to the Tour de France. It marks a new race schedule for the Dutchman, who has ridden the Giro d'Italia for the last two season. Last year he finished 8th overall before going on to win a stage and finish 3rd at the Tour de Suisse.
This year's Tour will be about gaining experience but like his attitude towards the Ardennes, he is willing to take any opportunities that come his way.
"We want to see what I can do in the Tour de France. That's the biggest race. I want to be there because as a rider it's the highest achievement to be good there. I want to gain some experience there, because the riders on the team and the staff tell me everything is different at the Tour compared to the Giro or the Vuelta but I still want to be at my best there. If I get the same form that I had at the Giro last year or the Tour de Suisse, then I think I can show myself there."