Velominati Super Prestige: Amstel Gold Race

Velominati Super Prestige: Amstel Gold Race

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Holland. Not known as a hilly country, this. I have relatives who live “at elevation” near the Kinderdijk, where I took this photo. They live at 3m above sea level. Right. Known more for wind than we are for hills, then. In fact, one of the many (many) interesting things about the Netherlands is that while most countries use windmills to grind grain, the Dutch use theirs to pump sea water out of what we call polders.

It’s a good thing I wasn’t involved in the planning of the dijk system back in the 11th Century when it was originally designed, because I would have completely overlooked the fact that once you build the dikes and pump the seawater out, it seeps right back in, the little bugger. It turns out that you need a mechanism to keep pumping the water out and back into the sea.  Not so easy when you’re pumping the water from several meters below sea level, so the Dutch designed an ingenious system of tiered channels wherein the windmills power a water wheel that scoops water from a lower channel into a channel approximately 1 meter higher. Add more channels until you’re high enough to get it back out into the ocean. Then you sit back, pour yourself a luke-warm Pils, and let the ferocious wind do something more practical than turning cyclist into wind veins.

A fact often overlooked when painting the Netherlands with the “flat as a pancake” brush is our little provence of Limburg.  The monkey’s tail of the country, it dips down into the south towards Belgium and into the fabled cycling hills of the Ardennes. The Ardenne are fascinating from a geological standpoint, of which I know almost nothing. When you stand at the top of these hills, the landscape looks almost like you’re standing on a plain. But between you and your neighbor a kilometer away lies a deep valley with short, brutally steep slopes. It seems as though these hills were originally a flat plain until heaps of water washed away all the softer bits and left the Ardennes behind. Between you, me, and the seatpost, this is about the best cycling country you can find in the world. But maybe someone else is onto this secret already. In fact, maybe that’s why they have so many great bike races here.

The Amstel Gold Race is the gateway drug into a three week massacre on the hills of the Ardennes.  Amstel is the youngest of the classics, but by no means the easiest. This race used to finish in Maastricht, often in a small bunch sprint similar to MSR, until the organizers decided to move the finish to the top of the Cauberg outside the town of Valkenburg. A 1.5km stinger, a hill like this does not feel good when you’re off the front, trying to keep the lads breathing down your neck at bay.

Hard enough to exclude the sprinters, but not so hard the rouleurs don’t have a chance, this one is about as hard to call as they get – and I think a quick review of the scoring on the VSP thus far pretty clearly paints the picture that we collectively know fuckall about predicting races.

With that, we kick off the 2011 Velominati Super Prestige for the Amstel Gold Race. As usual, the winner of this VSP edition will earn an “Obey the Rules” bumper sticker and all reader’s points qualify towards the final prize of the free personalized Velominati Shop Apron. If you are inclined to enter, simply post your predictions for the top five placings in the designated area above the posts section, bearing in mind that entry/modification of picks closes at 5am Pacific time on the day of the race. Check the Super-Prestige main page for rules and scoring information.

A VSP Edition hardly seems complete without our requisite videos, and this time we have two. One of my nearly-namesake Frank Schleck (who’s about primed for another classics win, I would think), but the one below is actually my favorite Amstel finish; out on the original finish in Maastricht, Dekker was one of the coolest and schrewdestest riders of the last decade, and this one is a masterclass. After bridging up to Pharmstrong, he has the strength to contain Armstrongs attacks on the Cauberg and then sprints off the front to win.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAqIVanqbuw[/youtube]

Sadly this video cuts out the great attack by Pharmy which was contained by some generous helpings of Rule #5 being dished out by my boy Dekker. If anyone can find it, please point us to it.

Good luck.

 

// Velominati Super Prestige

  1. Mid pack position consolidated. Water Bottle anyone?

  2. @mcsqueak
    What are you considering for bike #1?
    I seem to be due a big tax refund, which I think may be linked to Cyclops’ high finish in the Tax Day race and have convinced my VMH that a fork and frame would be a wise investment for the good of the children.

    Time to go to the Candy Store?

  3. @xyxax

    Oh god, I don’t even know. It’ll be a few years before I have a few grand extra to spend on another bike. My current ride is a Felt so I can’t exactly complain, other than it currently weighs 19.5 lbs. Something sexy with soul like a Bosberg would be nice.

    What are you looking at right now?

  4. CRAP!!! I was being lazy/indifferent about making Super Prestige picks for AG but I thought if I had to pick a winner it would be Gilbert.

  5. @Frank, @pedale.forschetta… Love the sound of your rides… It’s why we do what we do… Around Como you bastard! Was sunny but cool in London today, not a cloud in the sky and some great riding… 105km to Box Hill and back… A pb on the climb… I am officially no longer ‘too fat to climb’… Smugly content in the ‘I climb well for my weight’ … But stil trashed by the thin people… I love our sport… Rock on Gilbert… I’m now in top 50 of VSP

  6. Minion :
    Mid pack position consolidated. Water Bottle anyone?

    I’ll have a bottle thanks…

  7. @mcsqueak
    Hmmmm. I know what you mean. My current bike is less than a year old. But it will probably take 12-24 months to nickel and dime for all the components of any frame I get now.
    That said, I am considering a Van Dessel or a Moots, like Pedale, but only if he takes the photograph.

  8. Great ride by Gilbert, but he can’t be considered anything near Sean Kelly until he a) rides Paris-Roubaix (preferably winning it) and b) finishes top 5 GC in a GT. He certainly is vying with Cancellara for current King of the Classics title though…

  9. @xyxax

    Moots are cool. Pretty popular around here for ‘cross. Would you get a Ti frame?

  10. Oli Brooke-White :
    Great ride by Gilbert, but he can’t be considered anything near Sean Kelly until he a) rides Paris-Roubaix (preferably winning it) and b) finishes top 5 GC in a GT. He certainly is vying with Cancellara for current King of the Classics title though…

    Yeah, I was still overly excited and impressed when I posted that comment. But, that being said, he races STRONG in the Spring AND the Fall and just has the feel of a Hardman of old, at least to me. He embodies the spirit of Kelly more than anyone in the peloton these days, except maybe Jens V, and he also wins. Just love the guy!

  11. xyxax :
    @frankPerhaps a little syringe icon for the person who gets the most points by riders under investigation/banned for doping?

    Now THAT’S a great idea! Totally made me laugh!

  12. Dam you Leukamans… 7th… 7th? C’mon man get on the podium already! costing me valuable Prestige points you douche bag!
    Can I click DISPUTE on my results simply becuase I’m bitter that Franky and Baden Cooke didnt get near the top 5?

  13. My early breakaway lead is slowly being dragged in by the chase group! Leader at 21 points, chase groups down by 2pts…
    Time to counter attack?

  14. @Scuba Steve
    Wait for me to bridge up, so we can work together? Unless you plan on Schlecking me between Worlds and Lombardy …

  15. I cant believe we gotta come up with another set of picks in just 2 days. Damn the stress is killing me.

  16. Given that PhilGil did much of the chasing in the last 10k and then exploded like he did, I don’t think there is much different any of the final selection could have done. HOWEVER with 3 Dutch Bankers in the spots between 6-10, you gotta think they might be re-assessing their tactics of all sitting in as Phil did the work (how effing good was he?).

    Just sayin…

  17. @mcsqueak
    Yeah, a road Ti frame, but honestly, I might have to have a very sick rich uncle somewhere for that one.
    I figure I’ll need a true 60 cm frame at least so it limits the choices somewhat.

    @Buck Rogers
    It’ll be like grade school where everyone gets a prize just for competing so one doesn’t end up feeling like a loser with a need for a trench coat, semi-automatic weapons and a spectacular ending.

  18. @Pedale.Forchetta
    Keep it up, Pedale. I’d rather hear it and be envious than never hear about it.

  19. Nate:
    @Pedale.Forchetta
    Keep it up, Pedale. I’d rather hear it and be envious than never hear about it.

    Same here!

  20. Marcus :
    Given that PhilGil did much of the chasing in the last 10k and then exploded like he did, I don’t think there is much different any of the final selection could have done […] how effing good was he?.

    “Anyway, as a top favourite it was my responsibility so I pulled too.” THAT good.

  21. Oli Brooke-White :

    Nate:@Pedale.ForchettaKeep it up, Pedale. I’d rather hear it and be envious than never hear about it.

    Same here!

    Ditto. Particularly if it comes with photos …

  22. @G’phant
    On the basis of this last performance I am seriously considering buying some of those nose tape things that Gilbert (and Klodi?) are still persisting with. There must be something to them?

  23. Scuba Steve:
    Dam you Leukamans… 7th… 7th? C’mon man get on the podium already! costing me valuable Prestige points you douche bag!
    Can I click DISPUTE on my results simply becuase I’m bitter that Franky and Baden Cooke didnt get near the top 5?

    I’m with you Scuba, big L faded to 7th, I was gritting my teeth with him.
    Still this race was a crap shoot and other than the pHil we’re all guessing.

  24. @Roadslave
    Since I’ve heard of this:
    http://www.londonschoolofcycling.co.uk/dunwich.html
    I’m dreaming to partecipate!

  25. xyxax:
    @mcsqueak
    Hmmmm. I know what you mean. My current bike is less than a year old. But it will probably take 12-24 months to nickel and dime for all the components of any frame I get now.
    That said, I am considering a Van Dessel or a Moots, like Pedale, but only if he takes the photograph.

    With pleasure!

  26. @Marcus

    On the basis of this last performance I am seriously considering buying some of those nose tape things that Gilbert (and Klodi?) are still persisting with. There must be something to them?

    Don’t those look cool? Ulli used one, too. It doesn’t really matter if they help, does it? I’m getting me some.

  27. @Alex
    Leuk has got to be one of the standouts for the Sprint, eh? That’s Flanders, Roubaix, Amstel…Impressive stuff.

  28. @Marcus
    I don’t know if you were asking seriously but what an opening to pontificate!
    I trained as a pulmonologist, and while that doesn’t make me an expert in exercise physiology, we could never figure out the attraction of those things for athletes. They do not reduce the work of breathing during exercise and do not improve gas exchange, VO2 max, RPE, etc.
    However, they do improve nasal airflow for some and may delay the point at which mouth breathing must take over for nose breathing in exercise. This may be attractive to some from a subjective standpoint (“not working hard yet”) and prolongs the benefits of nose-breathing (air filtration and warming). That’s my theory.

    That said, I think they look goofy and evoke a unseemly need for a placebo effect. But, by definition, they do not detract from Gilbert’s looking Pro.

  29. @frank
    No offense meant.

  30. @mcsqueak

    One of the best things in the life of a Velominatus is having a #1 bike and a rain/everything else road bike.

    I too used to only have a #1 and riding in the rain was fun, but the entire time I was out pedaling I’d be fearing the hours of meticulous cleaning. It put a damper on the riding having that in the back of my mind. With a dedicated rain bike I don’t mind the rain at all. The bike gets cleaned, but not as often as the #1.

    Good luck on the day when you too have a rain bike; it’s an awesome upgrade.

  31. @Ron

    Yes, someday! My other bike is an old steel beast, so it’s not really rain suitable and I don’t want to rust her out prematurely. Someday someday someday…

  32. @frank
    Yes

    @xyxax
    Would it make it easier for you if we used italics for “non-serious” comment?

  33. frank:
    @Marcus

    On the basis of this last performance I am seriously considering buying some of those nose tape things that Gilbert (and Klodi?) are still persisting with. There must be something to them?

    Don’t those look cool? Ulli used one, too. It doesn’t really matter if they help, does it? I’m getting me some.

    Just thinking about how that would ruin my tan lines that my Jawbones have left on my face make me cringe.

    why the hell couldn’t Oscar push and come in at 5th? he cost me an extra point.

  34. @Marcus
    Yes, italics are helpful, particularly if linked to the phrase “Attention pompous windbag.”

  35. @Marcus
    It would be more helpful to avoid serious comments, or avoid taking comments seriously. (insert italics above wherever you feel them appropriate)

  36. @sgt @Marcus

    Stop being so confusing.

  37. @sgt

    @xyxax

    @Marcus
    “Seriously?”

  38. I’m reviving this thread to boast that the VMH and I have just booked a flight to Brussels for two weeks next April!
    Plan is to take in Paris-Roubaix, Amstel Gold and Fleche Wallonne. Getting a springbone just thinking about it!
    I’ve put in for the ballot for the Amstel Gold sportif and will do something leading up to Fleche. Unfortunately arriving to soon before PR to ride on that route prior but will look at doing something after.
    So…general tips anyone?
    Current dilemmas are: hire a bike there or bring #1 from Sydney?
    hire a car and stay in hotels or hire a campervan?
    tweed coat or goretex?
    I should mention the VMH is not a cycling disciple (yet) but is a sport nut and likes beer…

  39. @harminator
    Woot for you!
    I was at the start of the Ronde this year in Brugge, but can’t give too much advice as the VMH and I just accepted that the two year old naught-daught wasn’t up to the travel and hiking needed to get to really decisive vantage points.
    A car is a great idea. We had friends sans kids who saw the start then went to the Keppelmuur (sp?) via a train (had already got the train from Gent, where we were staying) and they had no problems, ibut it’d be good to see a race at a few points rather than two. Not sure you’d want a camper van necessarily when not at a race, but that depends what you’re up to in the down time – riding, I presume? Maybe the VMH might get a bit peeved in a van when staying in the centre of Ghent, Brugge etc is pretty awesome.
    Tweed or Gortex? Whatever is comfy. The crowd is much like a footy crowd at home. Casual but dressed for weather. The Ronde reminded me of Grand Final day in Melbourne. Huge atmosphere and place just pumped; fri ends said it paled in comparison to the course proper (they were at the chapel doors at the top of the climb). If you can make it to a start and still see action later, do it. You get really close to the riders as they roll to the start, albeit not nearly as close as the Tour stage finishes, as the bus area is fenced off. Be prepared to not understand anything, though (unless you speak European).
    If you can get a bike there, that’s what I’d do. I just have airline anxiety and those bastards messing up your bike would ruin your trip, insurance or no. Good luck finding place on the web; Italy is easy but Belgium is harder. Mayhaps someone on here has done so?

  40. @Blah
    Thanks mate.
    We’re going to be totally cycling focused but only for half the time. Never having been to that part of the world before, we’ll do some sight-seeing too.
    For PR I’d like to try to see a few (3?) cobbled sections and maybe finish in the velodrome. Don’t know if that’s realistic though..

    Amstel and La Fleche both repeat sections of the route so we’re more likely to stay in one spot. I’m a bit nervous about flying the bike over but finding it harrd to get good leads on bike hire…

  41. @harminator

    I’m reviving this thread to boast that the VMH and I have just booked a flight to Brussels for two weeks next April!
    Plan is to take in Paris-Roubaix, Amstel Gold and Fleche Wallonne. Getting a springbone just thinking about it!
    I’ve put in for the ballot for the Amstel Gold sportif and will do something leading up to Fleche. Unfortunately arriving to soon before PR to ride on that route prior but will look at doing something after.
    So…general tips anyone?
    Current dilemmas are: hire a bike there or bring #1 from Sydney?
    hire a car and stay in hotels or hire a campervan?
    tweed coat or goretex?
    I should mention the VMH is not a cycling disciple (yet) but is a sport nut and likes beer…

    AWESOME!!! So awesome!!! Man, I am soooooooooo jealous! No matter what you’re going to have an unforgettable time.

  42. @Buck Rogers
    Take #1. How many times will get to do this again?

    Get a car and stay in hotels. For Merckx sakes, man, you’re civilized.

    Tweed. Duh.

  43. @harminator
    See above. I replied to the wrong Velominatus. Oops.

  44. @Jeff in PetroMetro
    Brooks Brothers? That’s not twead. Here is some proper twead.

  45. @Nate
    “Twead”? Isn’t that the pattern on Elmer Fudd’s tyres?

  46. @Oli
    nipple lube

    Don’t twead on me!

  47. Where’s dat wascally wabbit??

  48. @harminator
    IMHO, (and very cool BTW) for PR I’d try and get into the ‘drome. Big monitors to watch the whole race, party atmosphere, and chance to mingle with riders post race.

  49. @Jeff in PetroMetro, @Nate
    The only acceptable tweed is scottish tweed, made in scotland. Harris Tweed only, gents.

  50. @frank

    Fastidious naked-ass bitch slapping required for ‘kim’ ^

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