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Amstel Gold Race may modify route as 18km circuit

2019 Amstel Gold Race men's winner Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) and women's winner Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM)
2019 Amstel Gold Race men's winner Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) and women's winner Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The Amstel Gold Race returns to its traditional slot on the calendar in mid-April in 2021 but the route is expected to be anything but routine. The Dutch race was cancelled last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and this year’s event may be held on a closed 18km circuit.

Race Director Leo van Vliet told the ANP news agency that he is working on logistics for a closed course, so that the men’s and women’s editions of the Amstel Gold Race can resume this year on April 18.

“We are busy lining things up with all the authorities, so that we are not faced with any surprises,” Van Vliet told ANP. “We now have to make sure that we don't wait until the last minute to find out, for example, what the mayors and other local authorities think. In any case, we will go for a race on a course that is easy to close to visitors from outside.”

The course typically rolls through the southern hills of the Dutch countryside and villages to feature 35 named climbs. It has been speculated that a closed circuit would look similar to the one used at the Valkenburg World Championships in 1998 and 2012. At the Worlds in 2012, the signature climb of the Cauberg, a 1.5-kilometer ascent with sections of 10 per cent gradient, was tackled 10 times. However, back in the 1948 Worlds, that climb was done 26 times.

But unlike the World Championships or past editions of Amstel Gold, there will most likely be no large crowds this time around. Details are yet to be confirmed for the exact route, while plans already include address major limits for spectators.

“There will be no VIP village or the like. We already approached local residents, holiday parks, hotels and restaurants along the course last year and they were very positive and accommodating at the time. We are now also trying to communicate as well as possible,” said Van Vliet.

Last year, Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège were displaced from their April dates due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The latter two were rescheduled and held in the fall, while the Amstel Gold Race and the Amstel Gold Race Ladies Edition were unable to go ahead on their revised date of October 10 due to newly-imposed coronavirus restrictions by Dutch authorities. Those restrictions also forced the cancellation of the Dutch stages of the 2020 BinckBank Tour.

The Amstel Gold Race has undergone several route modifications across the years but the Cauberg was long the event’s signature climb. The race finished at its summit from 2003 to 2012, while the finish line was placed just over a kilometre past the summit for the next four editions. In 2017, Amstel Gold Race incorporated a 'flatter' finish, with the Bemelerberg being the final climb, 7km from the finish in Berg en Terblijt, just outside Valkenburg.

The last edition was held in 2019 on a route slightly lengthened to 265.7km for the men, with Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) sprinting to victory in the closing kilometres for the men. Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) took a solo win for the women on a 120km course.