After a 14-year hiatus, the Amstel Gold Race for women is back on the calendar and to plenty of fanfare. The original edition ran for just three years with Nicole Cooke winning the last in 2003. However, with the continuing rise of women’s cycling, the organisers will be hoping that they’re in for the long haul this time around. The introduction of a first ever women’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the 20th edition of La Flèche Wallonne Feminine means that fans and riders will get a full Ardennes programme to enjoy.
The fourth running of the women’s Amstel Gold Race sees it scale the heady heights of the Women’s WorldTour, and has a starting line-up to match. With so much on the line, this is possibly one of the biggest weeks of the women’s cycling calendar in 2017.
WorldTour leader Coryn Rivera will defend her position at the top of the standings. Rivera has a serious turn of speed in a bunch finish and has proven herself one to keep an eye on in the hilly races. She is the only rider to have won two WorldTour races this season, with Trofeo Alfredo Binda and the Tour of Flanders already in the bag. Backing her up is Ellen van Dijk, who has a strong role to play as a domestique but is also a second card to play in the hunt for victory.
There will be some stiff competition from plenty of teams as they look to unseat Rivera from her throne. The previous leader Elisa Longo Borghini will be in attendance for Wiggle-High5, while Annemiek van Vleuten heads the Orica-Scott team. Both have had extremely consistent starts to the season, as has Elena Cecchini (Canyon-SRAM). Cecchini hasn’t dropped out of the top 10 so far in the WorldTour but will be desperate to nail a victory for herself. She has Pauline Ferrand-Prevot alongside her, who has been slowly riding herself into form ahead of the Ardennes.
Boels Dolmans will be ones to watch with Lizzie Deignan, Anna van der Breggen, Chantal Blaak and Megan Guarnier set to start. WM3 Pro Cycling brings Marianne Vos and Kasia Niewiadoma. Vos will be very familiar with parts of the route, after winning the World Championships in Valkenburg in 2012.
A berg packed parcours
The route might be just 121 kilometres, more than 30km shorter than the last offering of the Women’s WorldTour, the Tour of Flanders, but the Amstel Gold race has still packed in the climbs. A total of 17 climbs litter the route, including four rides up the Cauberg.
The race will take place on the same day at the men’s and will roll out of Maastricht just before 11am on Sunday. Four distinct circuits will be ridden, beginning with a trip north of Maastricht and then west, pitting the riders against their first four ascents. Following the initial loop, the riders will embark on three circuits to the south-east of Maastricht, each one decreasing in size.
The Geulhemmerberg, Bemelerberg and Cauberg all feature heavily in the final laps and will set the scene for the finale. After the fourth and final ride up the Cauberg, there is a 1.1km dash to the finish line. This run is crucial in deciding whether we see a bunch gallop or a lone break take the win. Time it right and you might break free of the pack but a small group finish is also a distinct possibility with the run from the top of the Cauberg to the finish will allow the main group time to bring back any escapees.