Valgren to carry leadership role for Tinkoff-Saxo at Amstel Gold Race

Michael Valgren will be the protected rider by Tinkoff-Saxo in Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race with the aim of seeing how far the young Dane can take the challenge of heading the squad in a major Classic.

Twice an under-23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner and in the thick of the action through to the end of the World’s in Ponferrada last September, Denmark's reigning national champion clearly is at home on hilly terrain in one-day racing.

Meanwhile his teammate Roman Kreuziger, the winner of the Dutch WorldTour race in 2013, is focussed on building his form for later in the Ardennes week and looking to peak in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Tinkoff-Saxo sports director Sean Yates told Cyclingnews.

Asked if Kreuziger would be their main man for Amstel, Yates responded. “For Sunday, to be frank, no. Traditionally the race is won on the burn-up the Cauberg, and Roman caught them [the rivals] off guard when he won. That might be possible again, but quite unlikely I would say.”

“We haven’t got any superstars here for this type of race, which is a three-minute capacity effort up the Cauberg, so it’s well up the street of the likes of [BMC Racing Team’s Philippe] Gilbert and [Movistar Team Alejandro] Valverde. Roman will be looking more at Liège, which is more suited to his style of riding.”

Instead, Tinkoff-Saxo will be looking to test out Valgren, because “yes, he’s inexperienced but he needs to learn the pressures of being a leader. And when our options are limited, why not give him a role, which will put some pressure on him?”

The aim, therefore, is for him to learn more about issues as fundamental as “economising energy, following wheels, riding smart, riding clever and seeing if he can get himself in the right place at the right point on the Cauberg. After that, it would be game on."

After tomorrow’s starting point, “He’s the type of rider who’s got the power for doing well in these kinds of races and in the years to come, he will progress.”

Whilst Tinkoff-Saxo’s options may be, as Yates, puts it “low-key” for Amstel, they will start to rise in Flèche Wallonne, where the addition of Rafal Majka to the squad’s Ardennes line-up will boost its firepower. “Majka is beginning to hit top form now, so that’ll increase our chances for both Flèche and Liège.”

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