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Teasing out the facts and figures from Amstel Gold Race

TOPSHOT The peleton rides past a windmill during the Amstel Gold Cycling Race in Maastricht Netherlands on April 21 2019 Photo by Marcel van Hoorn ANP AFP Netherlands OUT Photo credit should read MARCEL VAN HOORNAFP via Getty Images
The 2019 Amstel Gold Race (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

A relatively new top-level one-day race, Amstel Gold Race was due to hold its 55th edition on Sunday. The race has been postponed, however, due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, and is unlikely to be rescheduled at a later date this year.

There will be a virtual race, though, following on from a similar event run for the Tour of Flanders.

Prior to this season, the race had run uninterrupted since 1966, with beer company Amstel serving as the title sponsor since the beginning.

Originally, the race was to start in Amsterdam, through which the Amstel River runs, though complications with route planning put paid to that. Alternate starts in Utrecht and Rotterdam couldn't be realised either, and so the race moved to the south of the Netherlands.

The race finish moved to Maastricht in 1991, with the start moving there seven years later, as the race followed a sinuous route through the hills of Limburg. The finale moved to Valkenburg and the climb of the Cauberg in 2003, with the finish line shifted 1.8km beyond the summit a decade later.

The route underwent a further alteration in 2017 and the Bemelerberg is now the final ascent, a little over 7km from the finish in Berg en Terblijt, just outside Valkenburg.

Since Frans Maassen's 1991 triumph, only three Dutch riders have won Amstel Gold Race – Michael Boogerd (1999), Erik Dekker (2001) and Mathieu van der Poel (2019).

Here, Cyclingnews looks back at the previous 54 editions of the race,  teasing out the statistics, stories, facts and figures of Amstel Gold Race.

Most wins: Jan Raas, 5

German cyclist Didi Thurau leads the field followed by the alter winner Jan Raas during the ascent of the Kneuteberg of the Amstel Gold Race 27 March 1978 AFP PHOTO ANP ANP Photo credit should read ANPAFP via Getty Images

Jan Raas follows Didi Thurau in 1978 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Dutchman Jan Raas dominated the race in the late 1970s, taking five victories, four of which came with the famous TI-Raleigh squad. A strong sprinter with enough quality to excel on shorter climbs, Raas once said that Amstel Gold Race was made for him.

He won solo in 1978 and 1979, and twice won in a sprint, while his final win in 1982 came from a late attack. Philippe Gilbert has four wins between 2010 and 2017, and the Belgian blasting up the Cauberg has been a familiar sight in April in recent years. For good measure, he also won the 2012 World Championships thanks to a devastating acceleration on the climb.

Most wins
RiderWins
1Jan Raas5
2Philippe Gilbert4
3Eddy Merckx2
4Gerrie Knetemann2
5Rolf Järmann2
6Enrico Gasparotto2
7Michael Boogerd2

Medal table: the most podium finishes

Philippe Gilbert enjoys a beer on the podium in 2014 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Raas once again tops the table here, with his five wins coming alongside two podium places. At his first participation, Raas finished second, 4:29 behind Freddy Maertens, while at his last outing he was third behind solo winner Phil Anderson.

Gilbert usually wins when he's in the mix – he has no second of third places – but has finished fourth, fifth and sixth. 

Michael Boogerd, meanwhile, came close to adding to his two-win tally on numerous occasions, finishing runner-up to Erik Zabel, Alexandre Vinokourov and Davide Rebellin during his career. He also finished third on two occasions and fourth on one occasion.

Medals table
Rider1st2nd3rd
1Jan Raas511
2Philippe Gilbert400
3Michael Boogerd232
4Gerrie Knetemann210
5Enrico Gasparotto202
6Eddy Merckx201
7Rolf Järmann200
8Steven Rooks120
9Joop Zoetemelk112
10Johan Museeuw111

Most finishes: Davide Rebellin, 16

Rebellin in 2007, his 11th participation. He'd finish second behind Gerolsteiner teammate Stefan Schumacher (right) (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Davide Rebellin, still riding at Continental level with Meridiana Kamen this year at the age of 48, holds the record for the most participations with 16 between 1993 and 2016. He won the race in 2004 and was second in a Gerolsteiner one-two in 2007.

Philippe Gilbert, 37, is the next most-experienced active rider, with 14 Amstels under his belt. He's under contract with Lotto Soudal for two more seasons, so could match Rebellin in 2022.

Most finishes
RiderFinishes
1Davide Rebellin16
2Maarten den Bakker15
3Mauro Gianetti14
3Johan Museeuw14
3Joop Zoetemelk14
3Philippe Gilbert14
3Bram Tankink14

Finishing frequency

Nearly man: Óscar Freire

Freire attacking in 2012, his final participation. He'd go on to take fourth (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Óscar Freire had plenty of top 10 finishes at the race, though only came truly close to victory on one occasion – his final participation in 2012. There, a late attack almost came off, only to be caught by a small group led by Enrico Gasparotto within sight of the line. Freire ended up fourth.

Valverde has six top 10s, too, plus three podium places. He lost out in a sprint finish to then-world champion Michał Kwiatkowski in 2015. Kuiper, meanwhile, got on the podium once, in 1977.

Most top 10s without a win
RiderTop 10s
1Òscar Freire6
1Hennie Kuiper6
1Alejandro Valverde6
2Claude Criquielion5
3Karsten Kroon4
3Julian Alaphilippe4
3Paolo Bettini4
3Gerard Vianen4
3Simon Gerrans4

Oldest winner: Joop Zoetemelk, 40 years old

French cyclist Bernard Hinault L winner of the 1978 Tour de France shakes hands on the podium with runnerup Joop Zoetemelk from the Netherlands after the last stage in Paris on July 23 1978 AFP PHOTO Photo by STAFF and AFP Photo by STAFFAFP via Getty Images

Zoetemelk, pictured here in 1978, won Amstel Gold Race nine years later at the age of 40 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Zoetemelk is by far the oldest winner of the race, beating his next best competitor – Philippe Gilbert – by almost six years. The Dutchman, whose pro career ran from 1970 to 1987, also holds the record for being the oldest winner of Tirreno-Adriatico (38 years, 101 days) and the World Championships road race (38 years, 273 days).

After three podium places during his career, Zoetemelk finally triumphed in his final year as a pro, soloing to victory 30 seconds ahead of compatriot Steven Rooks.

Gilbert has a chance to take the record in future, though it's a long shot. He'd have to race on to the 2023 edition, when he'd be 40 years and 284 days old. 

Oldest winners
RiderAgeYear
1Joop Zoetemelk40 years, 143 days1987
2Philippe Gilbert34 years, 286 days2017
3Gerrie Knetemann34 years, 53 days1985
4Sergei Ivanov34 years, 46 days2009
5Enrico Gasparotto34 years, 27 days2016

Youngest winner: Gerrie Knetemann, 23 years old

The youngest riders to win the race come clustered at the 23-year mark, with no prodigies standing out from the crowd. Mathieu van der Poel, winner in 2019, is seventh on the list – he was 24 when he took his amazing last-gasp victory. 

Youngest winners
RiderAgeYear
1Gerrie Knetemann23 years, 38 days1974
2Jacques Hanegraaf23 years, 128 days1984
3Harry Steevens23 years, 147 days1969
4Georges Pintens23 years, 192 days1970
5Walter Planckaert23 years, 352 days1972

Fastest edition: 1967

Bjarne Riis Amstel Gold Race 1997

Bjarne Riis rode the third-fastest edition in 1997 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Arie den Hartog's sole victory at the race brought its fastest edition, with an average speed touching 44kph. The Dutchman, who won Milan-San Remo two years earlier, beat Cees Lute and Harry Steevens in a sprint finish in 1967.

The mid-1990s saw a couple of speedy editions too, rather unsurprisingly. Solo wins by Stefano Zanini and Bjarne Riis round out our podium.

Recent years have seen the race hover around the 39kph mark, though last year's edition saw an average speed of 41.056kph, the fastest since 2003.

Fastest editions
RiderYearSpeed (kph)
1Arie den Hartog196743.9175
2Stefano Zanini199642.6884
3Bjarne Riis199741.6895
4Alexandre Vinokourov200341.6618
5Jan Raas198041.5740

Slowest edition: 1973

Le coureur belge Eddy Merckx est suivi de prs par son compatriote Roger De Vlaeminck le 15 avril 1973 lors de la 71e course ParisRoubaix FILM AFP PHOTO Photo by AFP Photo credit should read AFP via Getty Images

Merckx racing in 1973 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

A solo win by Eddy Merckx provided the slowest edition of the race so far. The Belgian triumphed by 3:13 in a race where only 28 finished from a field of 165. That 1973 edition was hit by driving rain and freezing conditions. By the time Merckx made it to the finish, after over six and a half hours of racing, it was dark and sleet and snow was falling.

Slowest editions
RiderYearSpeed (kph)
1Eddy Merckx197335.8554
2Eddy Merckx197537.2311
3Johan Museeuw199437.2609
4Michele Bartoli200237.2945
5Rolf Järmann199337.3438

Average speeds

Looking at the data trends, we can see that the race has steadily grown in distance over the years, growing from between 230 and 240km in the 1970s to 260km+ in the past several years. It is harder to draw any real conclusion from the average speed given the changes to the course over the years, though it has ticked up in recent editions.

Winning group size: 60, 1981

Nowadays, anything over 10 riders would be seen as a large group at the finish, given the sapping nature of the hill-filled course. In fact, we've only seen a lead group that large three times since the turn of the millennium, with Michał Kwiatkowski, Erik Zabel and Danilo Di Luca all winning from groups of ten or more riders.

In general, large groups at the finish are rare, with only nine occasions we've seen 10 or more riders duke it out in the race's history.

There are a few outliers though, including Bernard Hinault's triumph from a 60-man group back in 1981, his only win at the race in two participations.

Winning group size
RidersWinnerYear
160Bernard Hinault1981
252Olaf Ludwig1992
342Adrie van der Poel1990
417Michał Kwiatkowski2015
514Erik Zabel2000
611Michael Boogerd1999
711Jan Raas1980
811Arie den Hartog1967
910Danilo Di Luca2005
108Mathieu van der Poel2019

Largest winning margin: Freddy Maertens, 4:29

Finally, we come to the largest winning margins, a category dominated by the 1970s. Freddy Maertens' 1976 win takes the prize, with a massive 4:29 margin of victory ahead of Jan Raas. It's no surprise to see Eddy Merckx up there either – his big win came at the brutal edition described in our 'slowest edition' section.

Philippe Gilbert's 2014 win was the last time we've seen a rider cross the line solo. He won by four seconds ahead of Jelle Vanendert. A year earlier, Roman Kreuziger soloed to the win 22 seconds up on Alejandro Valverde. The Czech rider attacked 17km out, riding the final 7km on his own.

Largest winning margins
RiderYearMargin
1Freddy Maertens19764:29
2Gerrie Knetemann19743:21
3Eddy Merckx19733:13
4Jacques Hanegraaf19842:04
5Jan Raas19781:16