Gerrans poised for Amstel success

Amstel Gold Race, Simon Gerrans, Orica-GreenEDGE, Netherlands, Australia, cycling
Orica-GreenEDGE's Simon Gerrans will be hoping to improve on his 2011 result at the Amstel Gold Race (AAP)

Europe's spring classics calendar switches from the cobbles of Flanders and Roubaix to the hilly Ardennes region this Sunday with the Amstel Gold Race, in the Netherlands.

It gets harder and harder and faster and faster as the day goes on and with each new difficulty, the front group becomes more and more select.

Cannondale's Peter Sagan once again heads into a big classic as the favourite, but form and team support all have Orica-GreenEDGE's Simon Gerrans in a bullish mood about his chances.

A significant change to the Amstel could open up the race for more riders, with the finish moved over a kilometre past the top of the 1.2km long Cauberg, perhaps negating one of the punchy Sagan's big advantages.

Gerrans finished third at the Amstel Gold Race in 2011 and has prepared well for this year's edition.

He won a stage of the Volta a Catalunya in Spain and was a member of the Orica-GreenEDGE team that rode well last week at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco.

Gerrans and team-mate Daryl Impey won stages, while Pieter Weening was sixth overall.

Gerrans will lead that eight-rider combination at Amstel Gold.

While several members of their team competed in the event for the first time last year, this time they are a much more experienced formation.

"Simply knowing what to expect will allow us to race at a better level," said Gerrans. "I'm super-motivated for this race.

"I've done well at Amstel Gold in the past and I know I can do well here again. My goal is to go out there and win and we have the team to do that this year."

He said the course changes, including a new finish, could make the race more unpredictable.

"Typically, this is a race of attrition," he said. of the course which includes 34 climbs.

"It gets harder and harder and faster and faster as the day goes on and with each new difficulty, the front group becomes more and more select.

"The strongest guys on the day are left to contest the win."

The only Australian to win Amstel Gold was Phil Anderson, who took it out in 1983.

Gerrans has already taken out a classic, winning Milan-Sanremo last year.

There will be seven Australians in the field. Gerrans and team-mates Simon Clarke and Wes Sulzberger, plus David Tanner (Blanco), Mat Hayman (Sky) and Saxo-Tinkoff pair Jay McCarthy and Rory Sutherland.

Amstel Gold starts an eight-day Ardennes campaign that also features Fleche Wallone and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

The Amstel Gold Race will be broadcast LIVE to Eastern states from 10:30pm Sunday 14 April SBS ONE, with live streaming online here at Cycling Central.

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