Saturday, April 14, 2012

Favorites for Amstel Gold Race

Purito's stage win in Vuelta Pais Vasco
on a steep final like Cauberg with 15%.
Every single one of you reading this site should know who my favorite is for Amstel Gold Race this Sunday. A lot of things can happen but I think it will end up with a reduced group fighting for the win on Cauberg and that means a certain Spanish rider must be the mega favorite.

Joaquim “Purito” Rodriguez
Give this guy a steep part over 15% and he gets wings. Purito has been an expect of these “rampas” his whole career and the last couple of years he has had few if any real equals at all. Last year Purito had some injury problems leading up to the Ardennes Classics but he still managed to rip the front group apart on the steep part of Cauberg with only Gilbert able to follow him. Given state of shape Gilbert was in last year, of course he won the race against Purito who still wasn’t 100%. This year Gilbert doesn’t seem to be near the same condition and while Purito recently showed off his excellent shape in Vuelta Pais Vasco I can’t see anyone beating the little Spaniard if it’s all together when they start on Cauberg.

Samu winning in Arrate
for the 3rd time in a row.
Samuel Sanchez
Yet another Spanish rider. If Purito showed he was ready in Vuelta Pais Vasco, Samuel Sanchez showed he was super ready. Euskaltel Euskadi finally got their win on home territory and if Samu can manage to refocus on the Ardennes after that performance he should have very good chances of a podium spot.

I doubt he will try to attack before the final and since I can’t see him follow Purito, I don’t think he will win, but he is definitely a strong contender for the podium. Team mate Mikel Landa recently said that Samuel Sanchez had one of the three Ardennes Classics red-circled and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the one.

Cunego winning Amstel
on Cauberg back in 2008.
Damiano Cunego
First one of my favorites who has actually won the race earlier. Damiano Cunego won on Cauberg back in 2008 when he outsprinted Fränk Schleck and Alejandro Valverde. Ever since Cunego has been among the best riders in the race taking 5th in 2009, 6th in 2010 and 15th last year. This year Cunego has ambitions on the World Champion course in Limburg and since that one is very similar to the Amstel Gold Race course, Cunego wants to show he should be the Italian captain in September. In Vuelta Pais Vasco he ended off very strong with an impressive 5th place on the final time trial and without Michele Scarponi to share the leader role with, I think Damiano Cunego has good chances of taking yet another top spot on Cauberg. 

No favorites without any jokers. Even though Katusha and other teams should be strong enough to keep it together for a final show down on Cauberg, the chance of a successful attack is always there. One of the riders who has the strength to do it is Vincenzo Nibali. His showed in Tirreno-Adriatico and Milano-San Remo that his tactical sense is improving and if he can keep his head cool this time he should be able to put in a strong attack in the final.

Nordhaug wins Trofeo Deia
after going solo in the final.
Another rider who has shown to be very strong these days is Lars-Petter Nordhaug from Team Sky. Nordhaug ended 4th overall in Criterium International and 6th in the GC in Vuelta Pais Vasco and according to the Norwegian he was even holding back to be ready for the Ardennes Classics. Team Sky also have Sergio Luis Henao on the team and since the Columbian is more explosive in the final I think Lars-Petter Nordhaug will have to attack from a far if he wants a chance to surprise the favorites.

Among other riders for the expected “sprint” on Cauberg it would be foolish not to mention Alejandro Valverde and Simon Gerrans but to be honest I have more faith in the three pointed out above. For break aways look out for Giovanni Visconti and home favorite Robert Gesink.

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