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On the start line at Amstel Gold Race

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Andy and Frank Schleck roll out together

Andy and Frank Schleck roll out together
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Plenty of interest in Robert Gesink (Rabobank) for today

Plenty of interest in Robert Gesink (Rabobank) for today
(Image credit: Joost Katooen)
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Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil)

Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil)
(Image credit: Joost Katooen)
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Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) heads for the start

Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) heads for the start
(Image credit: Joost Katooen)
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 Fabian Wegmann (Milram) keeps cool in the peloton during his first race back after breaking his collarbone

Fabian Wegmann (Milram) keeps cool in the peloton during his first race back after breaking his collarbone
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) rolls out of the start

Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) rolls out of the start
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The peloton rolls out in the sun

The peloton rolls out in the sun
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Kjell Carlstrom (Team Sky)

Kjell Carlstrom (Team Sky)
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The peloton and the lead car

The peloton and the lead car
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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They're off!

They're off!
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The three Caisse d'Epargne riders wait to roll out

The three Caisse d'Epargne riders wait to roll out
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The three Caisse d'Epargne riders were the centre of attention

The three Caisse d'Epargne riders were the centre of attention
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) drove 1400km to get to the start

Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) drove 1400km to get to the start
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) could win today

Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) could win today
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Cervelo passing the alcohol test while driving up to the start line in Maastricht

Cervelo passing the alcohol test while driving up to the start line in Maastricht
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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The Maastricht police checks out whether Rabobank's bus driver had a rough night... he passed the test

The Maastricht police checks out whether Rabobank's bus driver had a rough night... he passed the test
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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Riders rolling by the Cauberg during the first passage

Riders rolling by the Cauberg during the first passage
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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The peloton is ready to roll out of Maastricht

The peloton is ready to roll out of Maastricht
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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Karsten Kroon and Cadel Evans are leading the BMC team

Karsten Kroon and Cadel Evans are leading the BMC team
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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Andy Schleck greets a friend at the start of the Amstel Gold Race in Maastricht

Andy Schleck greets a friend at the start of the Amstel Gold Race in Maastricht
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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Last year's winner of the Amstel Gold Race, Russian champion Last year's winner of the Amstel Gold Race, Russian champio Sergey Ivanov

Last year's winner of the Amstel Gold Race, Russian champion Last year's winner of the Amstel Gold Race, Russian champio Sergey Ivanov
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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Robert Gesink finished third last year. Gesink is the Dutch hope for a good result in the Amstel Gold Race

Robert Gesink finished third last year. Gesink is the Dutch hope for a good result in the Amstel Gold Race
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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Peter Wrolich traveled for 16 hours by train to make it in time to the start of the Amstel Gold Race

Peter Wrolich traveled for 16 hours by train to make it in time to the start of the Amstel Gold Race
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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Quick Step's Patrick Lefevre enjoyed the sun in Maastrich

Quick Step's Patrick Lefevre enjoyed the sun in Maastrich
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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Katyousha's director sportif Jef Braeckevelt leads one of the strongest teams in the Amstel Gold Race

Katyousha's director sportif Jef Braeckevelt leads one of the strongest teams in the Amstel Gold Race
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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There were blue skies and little wind at the start in Maastricht

There were blue skies and little wind at the start in Maastricht
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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 Fränk Schleck (Saxo Bank) shows his baby daughter's name tag

Fränk Schleck (Saxo Bank) shows his baby daughter's name tag
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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 Fränk Schleck (Saxo Bank) has a custom decorated Specialized bike

Fränk Schleck (Saxo Bank) has a custom decorated Specialized bike
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The Katusha Ridley bikes await their riders

The Katusha Ridley bikes await their riders
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Footon-Servetto ride black Fuji bikes

Footon-Servetto ride black Fuji bikes
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The Quick Step Merckx bikes are ready

The Quick Step Merckx bikes are ready
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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There are a lot of bikes in the Netherlands

There are a lot of bikes in the Netherlands
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Tony Martin's Scott bike: he's number 143 today

Tony Martin's Scott bike: he's number 143 today
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Tony Martin (HTC-Columbia) has a long list of where all the 31 climbs are

Tony Martin (HTC-Columbia) has a long list of where all the 31 climbs are
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The Rabobank fans even watched from behind a bus shelter

The Rabobank fans even watched from behind a bus shelter
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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There was a huge crowd outside the Rabobank bus

There was a huge crowd outside the Rabobank bus
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The Ag2r-La Mondiale Kuota bikes

The Ag2r-La Mondiale Kuota bikes
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The Cervelo TestTeam on the start podium

The Cervelo TestTeam on the start podium
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The Astana bus hold the team bikes and lots of Belgian beer

The Astana bus hold the team bikes and lots of Belgian beer
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Astana has some custom decorated Specialized bikes

Astana has some custom decorated Specialized bikes
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) and Fränk Schleck (Saxo Bank) pose for a photograph

Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) and Fränk Schleck (Saxo Bank) pose for a photograph
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) is wearing his white Italian champions jersey today

Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) is wearing his white Italian champions jersey today
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Robert Gesink (Rabobank) speaks to the crowd before the start

Robert Gesink (Rabobank) speaks to the crowd before the start
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The Rabobank team got the biggest cheer on the podium

The Rabobank team got the biggest cheer on the podium
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Saxo Bank has a powerful team for the Amstel Gold Race

Saxo Bank has a powerful team for the Amstel Gold Race
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) looked nervous before the start

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) looked nervous before the start
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) explains their tactics

Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) explains their tactics
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) says hello

Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) says hello
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Niki Terpstra (Milram) signs an autograph

Niki Terpstra (Milram) signs an autograph
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Only three bikes outside the Caisse d'Epargne bus

Only three bikes outside the Caisse d'Epargne bus
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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World Champion Cadel Evans (BMC) on the start podium

World Champion Cadel Evans (BMC) on the start podium
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)

The riders gathered under a warm sun in the centre of Maastricht for the start of the 45th edition of the Amstel Gold Race in the southern Limburg region of the Netherlands.

Some of the riders had already faced a race against time and across Europe to be at the start, but most of them made it and were happy to be racing. Chris Horner (RadioShack) seemed to have travelled the furthest, a massive 1800km from Spain, so he could have a shot at victory. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) and Chris Froome (Team Sky) both drove from Tuscany and Canada's Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) and Xavier Tondo (Cervélo TestTeam) traveled from Girona.

There were some big names who did not make it to the race. The Caisse d'Epargne team only had three riders to start the race: Imanol Erviti, Jose Garcia Acosta and David Lopez. Team leader Alejandro Valverde and UCI ranking leader Luis Leon Sanchez are not in the race after they made the decision not to drive from Spain.

Also missing are Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam), Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky). Cervélo TestTeam started with just five riders, HTC-Columbia only had six riders and Ag2r-La Mondiale had seven. Every other team had eight riders.

In the main square in Maastricht the riders climbed onto the podium team by team. The crowds were huge and the Rabobank team of Robert Gesink and Oscar Freire were greeted with the biggest cheer. A Dutchman has not won the Amstel Gold Race since 2001. Could Gesink do it today?

Fränk Schleck (Saxo Bank) became a father just a few days before and is wearing his daughter's birth tag on his chain. Watch out for special celebrations if he wins today, although he was involved in an early crash.

Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) is riding in support of teammate and Dutchman Karsten Kroon, but could also be a contender. Most teams suggested it was up to Katusha to control the race because the Russian team has a powerful line-up that includes 2009 winner Serguei Ivanov, Filippo Pozzato and Spain's Joaquin Rodriguez.

Any one of them could be first to the top of the final ascent of the Cauberg this afternoon and so win this 45th edition of the Amstel Gold Race.

The Cyclingnews live coverage of the race has already begun. The 257.8 kilometre race is due to finish at approximately 4:45p.m. local time. Cyclingnews will have a full report, images and interviews with the riders in the action immediately after the race.