John Degenkolb won Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix, giving Giant-Alpecin a hugely successful start to the season despite health problems for team sprinter Marcel Kittel.
Three-time winner Philippe Gilbert (BMC) is the favourite for further success at the Amstel Gold Race and is perfectly suited to the hilly route and finish atop the Cauberg climb. However, Dumoulin showed some solid form at the recent Tour of the Basque Country and won the final hilly time trial stage. In 2014, he finished third in the world time trial championships and was second overall in the Eneco Tour and at the GP de Quebec won by Simon Gerrans.
The Belgian newspaper Nieuwsblad has suggested Dumoulin looks a lot like Eddy Merckx in the early years of the Belgian’s career. However, the 24-year-old Dutchman pointed out he needs to win a lot of races before being compared to cycling’s legendary Cannibal.
"Through Twitter I have already received the same remark. Physically, there might be a likeness, not in terms of victories. And that is the key,” Dumoulin told the Belgian newspaper.
Racing on home roads
Dumoulin is from Maastricht where the Amstel Gold Race begins and he often trains on the 34 climbs and country roads of the race.
“In the past months I have worked hard in training and I have used the Vuelta al Pais Vasco as the finishing touch. The time trial win on the last day in Spain gave me a lot of confidence. Now I hope things work out well for the upcoming period. After finishing Pais Vasco my main aim is to be as fit and ready as possible for the Amstel Gold Race. I am really looking forward to this special race for me with the start in my back yard and riding in my training area,” he said in a press release from the Giant-Alpecin team.
“In the beginning of this week I did my last long training, mainly along Sunday’s route. The rest of the week consisted of short trainings to give my body rest and be ready for the race, so I hope the hard work will pay off.”
With Paris-Roubaix and Milan-San Remo winner John Degenkolb enjoying a well-deserved break, Dumoulin will have support from Warren Barguil, who will ride the Amstel Gold Race for the first time before focusing on the uphill finish at Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday and then Liège-Bastogne-Liège next Sunday. Also in the Giant-Alpecin squad for the Amstel Gold race are Georg Preidler, Roy Curvers and Albert Timmer.
“I am ready for the race and I am really excited to start my campaign in the Ardennes Classics. It is an important moment for me because it is a period in my season which I have worked towards,” Barguil said.
“Normally this race isn’t decided until shortly before the finale, and I expect the race scenario for Sunday to be the same. I hope I am able to support Tom. It will be my first participation in Amstel Gold Race so I will learn a lot from it. The Ardennes Classics are difficult races where experience and knowledge of the route are crucial.”