Velominati Super Prestige: Amstel Gold Race

The iconic windmills of the Netherlands

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.


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.


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237 Replies to “Velominati Super Prestige: Amstel Gold Race”

  1. @Pedale.Forchetta
    Too bad they didn’t keep working. It’s their own fault. Gesink could have played a role if he followed Andy Schleck, if he followed Gilbert or if he just went himself.

  2. So who placed in 4th and 5th?!?!?!? Cyclignnews and Sporza have not posted the results yet!

  3. I don’t know… I think Kolobnev was 4th, but I stopped watching when they started discussing tactics with Rabobank.

  4. I’m a bit behind on the results – they’ll be up in a few minutes. What a fight from Grimplette, but Gilbert is exactly what I’m talking about when I criticize Garmin for not taking action. Gilbert did his turns, took action when others were sitting in, sat in when he could, and then rode an amazing final. That, to me, is a classy bike racer. Amazing. That dude is quickly becoming one of my top favorites. I can’t see how anyone will beat him in two weeks.

    Gerrans got third??? How did I miss that? Awesome.

    OK, last question: am I the only one who thinks J-Rod is the perfect example of a dood who will get stuck with a doping ban?

  5. Man, what happened to A. Shcleck? Dude let me down there at the end! :)
    1 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
    2 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team
    3 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Sky Procycling
    4 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard Trek
    5 Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Katusha Team
    6 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team
    7 Björn Leukemans (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
    8 Ben Hermans (Bel) Team RadioShack
    9 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
    10 Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank Cycling Team

  6. @frank
    Absolutely agree with you on all points. Gilbert did some strong work in the end. i was afraid that he was going to lose too much energy by his work but he road with panache and pulled it off. Total Class Act!

    And yes, Ol’ J-Rod is just waiting to piss hot. Only a matter of time (besides, he’s Spanish and successful, of COURSE he’s doping! :)

  7. And ltet me just say this while I am still in the moment: Gilbert FUCKING ROCKS!!! The closest thing to a Sean Kelly in YEARS!!!

  8. I thought Faboo might pull out a sword and slice Schleck in half when Schleck crashed ol’ Sparty out of the race. Seems like the Schlecks’ brains might be as skinny as their arms.

  9. Argh. I thought Gilbert would be too heavily marked or he would save himself for L-B-L to avoid showing his hand too early a la Cancellara (even though he kind of did that at Brabantse Pijl). Hats off to him, what a badass! And what the hell was Rabobank thinking, taking too many cues from Garmin’s playbook.

  10. Both Schlecks do. Watching them descend is a clinic on what not to do.

  11. Despite opening his narrow lead by a few points, ScubaSteve has a certain Gansta G’Phant breathing down his neck after winning two editions in a row. Strong work all around.

    [vsp_score id=”7996″]

    If you disagree with any of the points you got, you can dispute your score by clicking the “dispute” link next to the result you don’t agree with. That will put it in a queue where we will have a gander at it and see if we mapped the result incorrectly (or – and this is really, really stretching the realm of possibility – there might be a bug in the logic that calculates the score. I know. Never happen.

  12. Gesink claimed he couln’t do anything else than sit and watch.

    I picked Rodriquez for third place, but I didn’t get any points.

  13. @ramenvelo

    Both Schlecks do. Watching them descend is a clinic on what not to do.

    So many climbers are so terrible going down, always amazes me. You’d think with all that practice going uphill, they’d occasionally venture back down the hill and get some experience descending. What, do they get airlifted off the top of mountains until race day?

  14. I’ll second that, Frank! Pedale Forchetta giving us the, “I’m back from my Sunday group ride, today Madonna del Ghisallo. It’s just started the Italian coverage…”

    is not fair at all. You lucky man! Hope it was a good time.

  15. @Ron
    You and Frank are right but I said that not (only) to show off but to share with you the good day I had. I hope your Sunday will be even better!

  16. @Pedale.Forchetta
    Pedale! I’m sure that your intent was not misconstrued, it’s just that we are just a bit envious of you. I love when you share these experiences of yours. It only makes me dream larger and plan bigger for the future! Thanks for sharing!!!

  17. @Pedale.Forchetta
    Pedale, it is Sunny here today, I did a long ride in the wind and (some) rain with @Jim yesterday, and today is an easy ride day with later some work on the site and preparing for the return of my VMH. Right now I am enjoying an espresso with a Stroopwafel while I prepare an omelet for breakfast.

    So yes, I think my Sunday will be great as well.

  18. @Buck Rogers
    Thanks for your words!

    One time I had too the Stroopwafel, they were very sweet, thanks for the photo I’ve forgotten the name.

    For something (almost) completely different
    I’ve really enjoyed the girl on the podium with the beer coasters dress!

  19. @frank
    Perhaps a little syringe icon for the person who gets the most points by riders under investigation/banned for doping?

  20. @frank

    I had a great ride in some rain yesterday too, after I got tired of waiting to see if it was going to clear up or not. It’s amazing that “starting” a ride in the rain seems like a PITA and takes a bit of mental fortitude, but if it rains during a ride then it’s actually sort of refreshing. I’ll pick the sun any day, but the rain isn’t too horrible. It also means that one of the routes I like to take will be refreshingly clear of other folks.

  21. @mcsqueak
    The idea of riding in the rain is terrifying to me. we just don’t get enough rain down here. And when it does rain all that oil baked into the road comes out and the people here don’t know what to do when it rains.

  22. @RedRanger

    Ok yeah, the first rain after the summer here is like that… people forget how to drive (which always shocks me, given I’m in the Pacific NW), and 2-3 months of oil comes up off of the streets. The only thing you have to remember is not to turn sharply when your wheels are over something metal, or the thick paint they use to mark lines and such, as that can get slick.

  23. @mcsqueak
    the rain doesn’t bother me too much as it rains all the time here so u either accept it or don’t ride, the only beef i have with it is that it causes the gravel to blend in with the road, have far too many brown shorts moments sliding on gravel that doesn’t look to be there

  24. Well, at least J-ROD from the ROKKIT SKWAD did as I imagined he would. +1! That guy is gonna win one of these one day.

    Why on earth did I have Horner in there? He didn’t even start this race. I am always behind the ball on these VSP things and fill them in while falling off to sleep, I guess. You west-coast bastards with your time delays.

    RE: Ryder
    He came in 2nd! 2nd-to-last! Shame that.

  25. I should dispute all my picks for being so awful… wish I had put Gilbert first, but I thought to myself that there was no way he was going to win it again, let alone two years in a row.

  26. @Sam

    Yeah it’s not even so much the rain, but also knowing that I’ll have to spend almost as much time cleaning my bike as I do riding. I don’t have a rain bike so bike #1, which I like to keep really nice, also serves as my ‘rain bike’, meaning I have to clean the crap out of it for an hour after a wet ride. Eventually this bike will be a dedicated rain bike when I get something nicer.

  27. @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?

  28. @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?

  29. 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.

  30. @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

  31. @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.

  32. 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…

  33. 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!

  34. 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!

  35. 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?

  36. 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?

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