Tim Wellens, Lotto-Soudal’s team leader for tomorrow’s Amstel Gold has said that he’s feeling confident ahead of the race and the route change will mean that riders will have to attack earlier now. The significant change to the race is that the Cauberg is no longer the last hill in the race.
The Belgian rider has won three races this season – a stage of the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista Del Sol and two races that formed part of the Mallorca Challenge. More recently, he finished fourth at De Brabantse Pijl – La Flèche Brabançonne, finishing in the same front group as winner Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Merida), so Wellens is clearly in good form.
On Sunday, the riders will cover 261 kilometres and 35 hills during the WorldTour race which starts in Maastricht. After just over 56 kilometres, and a first ascent of the Cauberg, the riders will cross the finish line in Valkenburg a first time. The finish is on the same place as previous editions.
Then the peloton starts a big loop of more than one hundred kilometres, with eighteen hills. The Cauberg is the last climb of that loop. Next, there is a smaller loop of about seventy kilometres with nine hills, the Cauberg being the last one before crossing the finish again.
Finally, one last lap needs to be covered. This one is only sixteen kilometres long and only takes the riders over the Geulhemmerberg and Bemelerberg. After the last hill, it’s only five kilometres till the end of the race.
Tim Wellens: “This morning we did a recon of the Amstel. Not much has changed, apart from the last kilometres of the race. It’s always nice to ride on the course a few days before the race, especially when the weather is as good as today. I had a good preparation, almost identical to the one of last year. I considered the Vuelta al País Vasco as a last preparation on the Ardennes races, so I would not peak too early. I noticed in the past that it is otherwise too difficult for me to hold on to that top shape until Liège-Bastogne-Liège.”
“At the Brabantse Pijl, I attacked once and that gave a good feeling. I was able to close the gap on the leaders. That gives me confidence for the Amstel. It is hard to predict the race. Riders who waited for the last ascent of the Cauberg in the past, will have to attack earlier now. I expect attacks in the section of the Kruisberg, Eyserbosweg, Fromberg and Keutenberg. Several factors can influence the race, like the wind or the fact that the roads are wet or not. I hope we ride strong as a team and animate the finale and that I or a teammate set a good result. We are aiming for the highest possible.”
Marc Sergeant, manager Lotto Soudal: “With the Brabantse Pijl, a new part of the season has begun. We hope to animate the races of the Ardennes triptych. The team had a good start at the Brabantse Pijl, where Tiesj Benoot and Tim Wellens rode a strong finale. That was encouraging for what has yet to come. Our team for the Ardennes races is different than for the Flemish spring races, so we start with new expectations. Most of the riders did a last preparation at the Vuelta al País Vasco.”
“The change that has been made to the course of the Amstel, means some riders will need to race differently. Hopefully many will take initiative. That’s also necessary for us and we hope others will do that too. We saw a strong attack from Tim Wellens last year, but he couldn’t stay ahead unfortunately. He did show that the course suits him. It will definitely be no bunch sprint on Sunday, but it can be a sprint with a larger group. Although the past races proved that attacking can be rewarded and we hope that is the case in the upcoming races as well.”
Lotto Soudal Line-up:
Sean De Bie
Bart De Clercq
Tosh Van der Sande