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On the start line: Amstel Gold Race

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The riders line-up for the start

The riders line-up for the start
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The crowds gather in the central Markt square for the start

The crowds gather in the central Markt square for the start
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The Euskaltel riders will be working for Samuel Sanchez

The Euskaltel riders will be working for Samuel Sanchez
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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David Millar catches up with former teammate Danny Pate

David Millar catches up with former teammate Danny Pate
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Christian Vande Velde talks to Philippe Gilbert

Christian Vande Velde talks to Philippe Gilbert
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The Rabobank riders are wearing a special 'Ride for the Roses' jersey

The Rabobank riders are wearing a special 'Ride for the Roses' jersey
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Jurgen Van den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto)

Jurgen Van den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto)
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) is about to start his last ever Ardennes campaign

Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) is about to start his last ever Ardennes campaign
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Vacansoleil is looking to land a big result with Devolder

Vacansoleil is looking to land a big result with Devolder
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Geoffroy Lequatre (RadioShack)

Geoffroy Lequatre (RadioShack)
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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A relaxed Fabian Cancellara has said he'll be heading for some junk food as soon as the race, and his spring, is over

A relaxed Fabian Cancellara has said he'll be heading for some junk food as soon as the race, and his spring, is over
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Paris-Roubaix winner Johan Van Summeren (Garmin-Cervelo)

Paris-Roubaix winner Johan Van Summeren (Garmin-Cervelo)
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Garmin-Cervelo on stage

Garmin-Cervelo on stage
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The big favourite: Philippe Gilbert

The big favourite: Philippe Gilbert
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Giovanni Visconti leads the Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli team

Giovanni Visconti leads the Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli team
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The Landbouwkrediet Colnago bikes await the riders

The Landbouwkrediet Colnago bikes await the riders
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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 Haimar Zubeldia's Trek bike

Haimar Zubeldia's Trek bike
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The Team Sky Pinarello bikes, including German champion Christian Knees' special white bike

The Team Sky Pinarello bikes, including German champion Christian Knees' special white bike
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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 Marco Pinotti (HTC-Highroad)

Marco Pinotti (HTC-Highroad)
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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A pensive Fabian Cancellara heads to the start

A pensive Fabian Cancellara heads to the start
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Andy Schleck is one of the big favourites as Leopard Trek look to land their first big classic

Andy Schleck is one of the big favourites as Leopard Trek look to land their first big classic
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Leopard Trek on the sign on podium

Leopard Trek on the sign on podium
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The Team Sky squad

The Team Sky squad
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Simon Gerrans looked a little nervous before the start

Simon Gerrans looked a little nervous before the start
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The Astana team on stage

The Astana team on stage
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Tour of Flanders winner Nick Nuyens almost missed the start

Tour of Flanders winner Nick Nuyens almost missed the start
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)

The sun was shining as the riders gathered for the start of the Amstel Gold Race in the central Markt square in Maastricht, and with little wind blowing the many flags in the square, the riders knew they were about to begin yet another classics in near summer like conditions.

The team buses were packed tight around the square. It makes for a chaotic start but allows the public to get close up the riders and ask for autographs and photographs.

Each team was presented on the sign-on stage with Rabobank the last to appear, wearing their special Ride for the Roses' jersey in support of the Dutch event that takes its name from the Texas event promoted by the Livestrong charity.

The 'home team' of the Amstel Gold Race has not won since 2001 and team leaders Robert Gesink, Oscar Freire and Luis Leon Sanchez are under pressure to get a result after the team had an impressive start to the season.

The big favourite they have to beat is 2010 winner Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto). He has been labelled the 'Cancellara of the Ardennes' because he is so strong and hi rivals could resort to marking hi out of the race as happened to Cancellara in the cobbled classics. However Gilbert looked relaxed and ready for anything as he signed on and chatted to Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervelo) before the start.

Garmin-Cervelo has a solid team with Ryder Hesjedal on form and supported by Christian Vande Velde, David Millar, Dan Lloyd, Michel Kreder and Paris-Roubaix winner Johan Van Summeren. The Katusha team is considered the most dangerous unit with Joaquim Rodriguez, 2009 winner Serguei Ivanov, Danilo Di Luca and Alexandr Kolobnev all capable of winning.

Leopard Trek is also a danger and looking for to land its first major classic with either Schleck bothers, Jens Voigt, Jacob Fuglsang or Fabian Cancellara.

The Amstel Gold Race is Cancellara's last big race of the spring and he hasn't taken part since 2004 but he's looking to produce one last ride before taking a break. Just before the race he tweeted: "260km to go and then is over... First break for a bit. Will do my best today in the race. After i have other race... What i gona go to eat."

Unfortunately for Cancellara there are no fast food outlets on top of the Cauberg. But the winner traditionally gets a glass of Amstel beer. That could be something to aim at and a perfect way to end his spring.