The cobbles are behind us as the women’s WorldTour moves to the Ardennes Classics with the start of Amstel Gold this Sunday. The 9th edition of the race in the Southern Netherlands will feature an extended course for the pro peloton, notching 155.8km. The top rivals are back including the newly crowned and historic winner of Paris-Roubaix, EF Education – TIBCO SVB Alison Jackson. Racing gets underway at 10:10 CEST, with an expected finish at 14:25.
The 9th edition of the women’s Amstel Gold will now be 28km longer than previous years, a total of 155.8km. 21 climbs are on the menu compared to 19 ascents last season including the famous Cauberg. The esteemed 800-meter climb is short but punchy, with an average gradient of 6.5% with its steepest section measuring 12.8%. The peloton are faced with the challenge for the first time out of four with the additional lap of the Valkenburg circuits.
Once the rider’s pass kilometer zero and the race gets underway, they are greeted with the first climb at only 15km in – the Maasberg. The long stretch before Valkenburg has 8 climbs, with the main selections being the Kruisberg at 61km, the Eyserbosweg a few kilometers down the road, then the Fromberg at 68km, and finally the brutal Keutenberg at 73km with a maximum gradient of 20%. All of this before the real battle begins.
In previous editions, the decisive moves have waited for the circuits, with the Cauberg at the climax. The Cauberg sits at 1.6 km from the line, after facing the kilometer long Geulhemmerberg and the winding 900m Bemelerberg, another three times. The added circuit will test the favorites to see who has any remaining fire in their legs to battle for victory.
Riders to Watch
Last year, an early break was caught before a group of favorites formed on the Cauberg including FDJ’s Marta Cavalli, Demi Vollering (SD Worx), Annemiek Van Vleuten (Movistar Team), and Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon / SRAM). Van Vleuten initiated the first attack from the group on the final ascent, before Cavalli would respond with an attack of her own within the final 2km. The Italian would hold a slight advantage before crossing the finish, four seconds ahead of Vollering, to notch her biggest victory of her career. Liane Lippert was just short on the line behind Vollering for third for Team DSM.
The races are getting longer this season, as the women continue to put on stellar performances and thrilling battles for racing fans around the world. Decorated veterans Annemiek Van Vleuten and Marianne Vos have had quiet starts to their season, with Vos continuing to find her form after an early season surgery. Van Vleuten will have Lippert on the squad, with the Cuban powerhouse, Arlenis Sierra for other options for the Spanish team.
SD Worx are once again arriving as heavy favorites with already 10 wins for 2023. Last year’s second place, Demi Vollering, earned two of those ten and will be back hoping to reach the top step. The team has yet to confirm their full squad but Lotte Kopecky will be racing alongside her, arriving at the start with 3 wins out of 6 races she has started this spring.
Marta Cavalli returns with FDJ to defend her title, alongside fan favorite, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and Aussie Grace Brown. Canyon / SRAM will be looking to secure more victories for this first half of the season with one on their score board thus far. 2019 Amstel Gold winner, Kasia Niewiadoma is back. She arrives with two top ten performances to start her season, including 6th at Strade Bianche and 5th at the Tour of Flanders.
A total of 24 teams are on the roster, ready to continue an already electrifying Classics season on Sunday. The final part of the race will be broadcast live beginning at 13:00 CEST.
‘Watch the Femmes’ TV Coverage: Eurosport, GCN
When: Sunday, 16 April
Where: Maastricht to Valkenburg, Netherlands
What: 1-day Spring Classic
Riders to Watch:
Marianne Vos ****
Kasia Niewiadoma ****
Demi Vollering ***
Veronica Ewers **
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By Rebecca Reza