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Amstel Gold Race Preview

18·04·14

The 49th edition of Amstel Gold Race will take place this Sunday 20th of April. The first of the three Ardennes Classics, Amstel Gold Race is Holland’s only WorldTour event and will see riders cover a total of 251 km, featuring 33 climbs, which total over 4000m of climbing.

The finish line is located 1.8 kilometers past the summit of the famous Cauberg (800 m, slope 12%) in Valkenburg.

Simon equalled his best Amstel Gold Race result last year when he rode himself onto the podium. Second in the chase group sprint, Simon claimed third place behind Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo), who took the win from a late breakaway, and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who edged out Simon from the chase group.

“Amstel Gold is one of my favourite races of the year and I have been working towards this race for a long time. ORICA-GreenEDGE have put together one of their strongest line ups ever so we have a fantastic chance of getting a good result,” said Simon.

“I’m really happy with my condition at the moment leading into Amstel. Although it’s been a turbulent spring for me with sickness and a few minor setbacks, the final phase of my preparation for the Ardennes has gone really well. I’ve put the runs on the board with Amstel in the past, so I’m probably going to be the guy the team looks to get a result on Sunday, and I feel up for the challenge,” added Simon.

With a strong team performance at last Wednesday’s De Brabantse Pijl, ORICA-GreenEDGE are confidant of securing some WorldTour points, 80 of which will be awarded to the winner come Sunday.

“We have a great team for Amstel. We’ve got plenty of cards to play beyond our team leader Simon Gerrans, and that is a luxury in a race like this. Of the three races next week, Amstel is the one that suits the characteristics of our team the best.” said ORICA-GreenEDGE Sport Director Matt White.

The race will depart the Market Square of Maastricht at 10:15am and is expected to finish at around 16:45 in the town of Valkenburg.

ORICA-GreenEDGE for Amstel Gold Race:
Christian Meier (CAN), Daryl Impey (RSA), Mathew Hayman (AUS), Michael Albasini (SWI), Michael Matthews (AUS), Pieter Weening (NED), Simon Clarke (AUS) and Simon Gerrans (AUS).

For more information on the race, please visit the official race website here.

For Australian viewers, Amstel Gold Race will be televised LIVE from 11:05pm Sunday 20 April on SBS ONE with live streaming online here.

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The 2013 Amstel Gold Race podium. Image with thanks to Graham Watson.

Test Well Taken at De Brabantse Pijl

16·04·14

De Brabantse Pijl served as one last test leading into the Ardennes. The course here is very similar to an Amstel Gold type course with quite a lot of short explosive climbs, technical bits, small roundabouts and lots of sharp corners. It’s a great way to do a very specific hit out before the bigger goal on Sunday. Being in the final few days leading up to Amstel, it’s a great way to test the condition.

We wanted to win today, and we brought a team that was capable of accomplishing that objective. We had quite a few options in the final. The team brought half of its Amstel team here in myself, Daryl Impey, Michael Matthews and Pieter Weening. It was expected that the four of us would be competitive in the finish circuit. The four that aren’t doing Amstel were asked to do the early work while the four of us that are racing on Sunday were waiting for the final to make our impact. It was up to Daryl, Michael, Pieter and myself to be really active on the finish circuit.

This team plan suited me well because I was hoping to stay pretty easy in the bunch for as long as possible and then have a really good hit out on the finish circuit to test my legs, which was exactly was I was able to do today. It was my personal ambition to use the race as one last good hit out to hopefully bring me up just a little more before Sunday.

We were happy with the composition of the early break as there were no WorldTour teams represented. Our guys started to ride as soon as the break had an advantage of 5 minutes, and we were soon joined by BMC.

In the past few years, this race has been won from a break on the finish circuit, but when I attacked with just under 50km to go, with the break still a minute ahead of the bunch, I didn’t think I was putting myself in the winning move. My intention was to take the pressure off my teammates – Daryl and Michael in particular – and to have a good hard race in preparation for Sunday.

When we started the final lap, our break still had a bit of an advantage on the peloton. That’s when I thought that maybe we would stay away to the finish, however the break stopped working together and we were swept up by the peloton just inside the final ten kilometres.

My chance to win the race was basically gone once the break was caught, but we still had Michael and Daryl in good condition. I wanted to do my bit to help those two out in the finish, so I neutralised any break attempts and made sure they were both well-placed in the final few kilometres for the run in towards the finish. Michael ended up second in the sprint behind Philippe Gilbert (BMC).

As a team, I think we can say we rode really well together. Half of our team here is very experienced, and the other half is still learning in these sort of races. Everyone rode well together, and everyone did the job they were asked to do. At the end of the day, to finish second with Michael is a pretty good result.

I’m really happy with my condition at the moment leading into Amstel. Although it’s been a turbulent spring for me with sickness and a few minor setbacks, the final phase of my preparation for the Ardennes has gone really well. I’ve put the runs on the board at Amstel in the past, so I’m probably going to be the guy the teams looks to get a result on Sunday. I am looking forward to the race and I feel that I am up for the challenge.

Simon.

2014 Fleche Brabanconne GW