• Amstel Gold Race 2017 (Getty)Source: Getty
We leave the cobbles for the Ardennes Classics, first stop - Amstel Gold. Technically not located in the Ardennes, we won't let a fact like that stop us. Watch all the action live right here Sunday 15 April with the women's race streaming at 9:30pm AEST and the men's streamed from 10:30pm AEST and broadcast on SBS Viceland.
Jane Aubrey

Cycling Central
13 Apr 2018 - 9:40 AM  UPDATED 14 Apr 2018 - 5:47 AM

Amstel Gold Race – women’s 119.4km

Defending champion: Anna van der Breggen

The youngest of the Ardennes Classics and in the case of the women’s race, even more so.

The start at the Markt in Maastricht shortly after the men depart keeps crowds centralised in this second year of a reinvigorated women’s edition of the Amstel Gold Race. Initially, the race was held for just three years, the last held in 2003 and won by Nicole Cooke before its return last year.

This race marks the beginning of arguably the biggest week of the Women’s WorldTour with all three Ardennes Classics providing valuable points.

Seventeen climbs are awaiting the women’s peloton with the winner to be decided on three ‘local laps’ of a 17.8km circuit which includes the Cauberg (climbed four times) with three of the Geulhemmerberg and Bemelerberg.

From the fourth ascent of the Cauberg, the riders then have 1.7km to the finish line.

The verdict

Anna van der Breggen (Boels – Dolmans) will be in the hunt for back-to-back wins after a solid performance at the Healthy Aging Tour. Expect Mitchelton – Scott’s Annamiek Van Vlueten to be in with a decent shot while Ashleigh Moolman (Cervélo-Bigla) seems to be on the verge of a big win. Dutchwoman and three-time world champion Marianne Vos was third on Wednesday at Brabantse-Pijl, perhaps an ominous sign for the next three weeks.

Watch the replay of last year's women's race

Amstel Gold Race – men’s 260.6km

Defending champion: Philippe Gilbert

A whopping 35 climbs dot the parcours that twist and turns its way around the south of the Netherlands in the Limburg region via four circuits.

What they lack in length or difficulty, they make up for in their ability to wear down the peloton. With a little over 40km remaining, navigating the Dutch road furniture and narrow roads will have taken a toll and its then that some of the steepest climbs of the day kick in – the Gulpenberg, Kruisberg and Eyserbosweg. The Keuterberg and the Cauberg follow in the run into the final 20km.

This year’s finish is different again to 2017, the Cauberg is ignored, opting instead for the Geulhemmerberg and Bemelerberg and race organisers have opted for narrow roads, making positioning key from start to finish.

The verdict

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) burst the QuickStep-Floors bubble last Sunday with a defiant win at Paris-Roubaix. The bad news for the Belgian team and the rest of the peloton is the reigning world champion is back this weekend. Gilbert is a four-time winner at Amstel and is aiming to go back-to-back and equal the record of five victories, held by Dutch great, Jan Raas.

Last year’s runner-up, Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) should be around the mark again, and the Lotto Soudal combination of Brabantse-Pijl winner Tim Wellens and Tiesj Benoot looms as a danger. This being the Ardennes, expect Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) to be among the action along with Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida).

Australians will find plenty to cheer with Jay McCarthy a key man for Sagan and well-suited to the parcours, Simon Gerrans (BMC) has been on the podium several times while Nathan Haas (Katusha-Alpecin) and Michael Matthews (Sunweb) appear to be our men most likely. 

Watch the replay of last year's men's race