10 riders to watch at Amstel Gold Race

Between the men’s and women’s races, there are a host of would-be winners, but here are our 10 riders to keep an eye on

Clock17:00, Friday 12th April 2024
There are five former winners lining up across the women's and men's Amstel Gold Race

© Getty Images

There are five former winners lining up across the women's and men's Amstel Gold Race

After De Brabantse Pijl performed its role masterfully as the transition between the cobbled Classics and the Ardennes Classics, it’s time to leave the pavé behind and enjoy some of the year’s best one-day races over the hills of the Ardennes. First up, the men’s and women’s peloton will make the jaunt into the Netherlands and the region of Limburg to contest Amstel Gold Race.

Ushering in the trio of Ardennes Classics, Amstel Gold Race often provides even more entertainment than La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège to come, with riders keen to test their legs and their opponents ahead of the Belgian Monument.

Read more: Spring Classics 2024: Essential guide to the races and riders

Amstel has become synonymous with the Cauberg climb, which has hosted the World Road Race Championships in the past and seen some of the world’s best riders leave their mark on this 1.2km-long test. The men’s peloton will crest the Cauberg for the final time with a little over 17km of undulating roads to ride, whilst the women’s race will feature a more traditional finish. They will tackle the climb from Valkenburg and end with a kilometre run-in from the summit to the finish line.

Both the women’s and men’s Amstel Gold Race have become fan favourites in recent years, with Mathieu van der Poel’s victory in 2019 simply unforgettable and Demi Vollering beginning her run of dominance in last year’s Ardennes with a solo victory in Limburg. The Dutch national champion will be hard-pressed to repeat her three-peat from last year’s Ardennes campaign, but the SD Worx-Protime leader will certainly give it a good go.

Between Vollering, Van der Poel and a stacked start list for each race, there are a plethora of riders knocking on the door to take victory on Sunday. For your riders to watch, look no further than our collection of five riders each from the women’s and men’s races to keep an eye on this weekend.

Demi Vollering (SD Worx-Protime)

Amstel Gold Race is perhaps suited to no rider more than DemI Vollering, who has taken two runner-up spots and a victory here since her transfer to SD Worx-Protime in 2021. It would be remiss of us not to mention Lotte Kopecky, who will be here just a week after her impressive Paris-Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift victory, but sporting manager Danny Stam has made it clear that Vollering is the team’s designated leader for the Ardennes Classics.

Read more: Lotte Kopecky to ride Giro d'Italia Women, Demi Vollering leader for Ardennes

The Dutch national champion skipped Paris-Roubaix Femmes in order to tailor her form towards these hilly races and she is clearly heading in the right direction after her second-place finish at De Brabantse Pijl on Wednesday.

Admittedly, Lidl-Trek’s Elisa Longo Borghini got the better of the reigning Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift champion in Belgium, but Vollering knows that her priority is the next three races, in which she will start each as the defending champion. An imperious climber at her best and a rider that first broke through with a handy sprint finish, Vollering can win in multiple ways at Amstel Gold Race and it would be a surprise to see her off the podium on Sunday afternoon.

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck)

Rather remarkably, Mathieu van der Poel has only ridden Amstel Gold Race twice in his already illustrious career, but he has proved himself more than capable of mastering the Cauberg and its nearby climbs on both occasions. His victory on debut in 2019 remains one of the Dutchman’s most impressive performances, whilst the Alpecin-Deceuninck rider took fourth behind the front group of three in 2022.

Returning to the race two years later, the reigning world champion is the rider of the moment. With imperious victories in E3 Saxo Classic, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, this spring has been one of dominance for Van der Poel, bar a runner-up spot at Gent Wevelgem to Lidl-Trek’s Mads Pedersen. Simply put, the 29-year-old is in the best form of his career and will be the man to beat on Sunday.

Read more: Alpecin-Deceuninck conquer Paris-Roubaix – ‘Mathieu is at the best level we have ever seen’

The only question mark over Van der Poel is how long he will be able to stay at this level, having ridden at his best since Milan-San Remo in March. He must surely have more than half an eye on Liège-Bastogne-Liège in a week’s time, where he can win his fourth different Monument. How hard will he push himself this weekend?

Shirin van Anrooij (Lidl-Trek)

Much like Lotte Kopecky, Elisa Longo Borghini doesn’t quite make our list but put quite simply, eyes will be on the Italian champion regardless. With that in mind, now is a good time to raise the presence of her teammate Shirin van Anrooij at Amstel Gold Race on Sunday, a rider who is more than capable of taking the win for Lidl-Trek herself.

In fact, whilst Longo Borghini skipped Paris-Roubaix Femmes in favour of the Ardennes, her dream win would surely be at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and it would do no harm for the Italian to work for Van Anrooij this weekend, as an up-front reward for her efforts on behalf of the 32-year-old in a week’s time. Lidl-Trek would be wise to approach Amstel Gold Race with the pair as joint leaders, such has been the form of both during the spring.

From Omloop Het Nieuwsblad to De Brabantse Pijl on Wednesday, Van Anrooij has finished in the top five at five of the biggest one-day races in the calendar, including Strade Bianche and the Tour of Flanders. Now 22 years of age, the Dutchwoman is in the best form of her fledgling road career.

Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers)

Fresh from a bone-rattling day in the saddle at Paris-Roubaix, Ineos Grenadiers’ Tom Pidcock heads into the Ardennes Classics with a surprise one-day performance in his back pocket. The Brit had been due to ride Itzulia Basque Country before turning his focus to the Ardennes, but curiosity got the better of Pidcock when a crash took him out of the stage race and freed up his calendar for Paris-Roubaix Sunday.

In the ‘Hell of the North’, Pidcock was towards the front of proceedings for much of the day and looked good for a top 10 finish, but the 24-year-old tailed off towards the end of the race and ultimately came home in 17th place. Nevertheless, it was a notable performance for a rider of Pidcock’s light weight – something which will play into his hands in the hilly Ardennes.

Read more: Tom Pidcock – 'I couldn't hold my handlebars at the end of Paris-Roubaix, it was epic'

Speaking of hands, Pidcock’s are still sore from the battering they took last Sunday, but heading into the Brit’s big targets before the Tour de France, Ineos Grenadiers will be hopeful of Pidcock improving on his runner-up placing from Amstel Gold Race in 2021.

Marianne Vos (Visma-Lease a Bike)

Keen to seek revenge after missing out on the podium at both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix will be Visma-Lease a Bike’s Marianne Vos, who won Amstel Gold Race in 2021. After a 2023 campaign besieged by setbacks, the three-time former world champion has been back looking her sparkling best during this year’s Spring Classics.

A first career victory at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad preceded ninth at Strade Bianche and a win at Dwars door Vlaanderen, before the two recent Monuments. Not only has Vos retained a nimble sprint that has proved so often useful throughout her record-breaking career, but the 36-year-old is still climbing with the very best in the world on short ascents. A general classification victory in a Grand Tour may be out of her reach these days, but a one-day hilly Classic like Amstel Gold Race is well within her grasp.

This is the final race on Vos’ provisional racing calendar for the spring and she will be determined to go out with a bang.

Matteo Jorgenson (Visma-Lease a Bike)

From one Visma-Lease a Bike leader to another, Matteo Jorgenson will be making his Amstel Gold Race debut on Sunday, but should be counted among the top favourites to bring an end to Van der Poel’s run of dominance. The American’s last outing was a disappointing 31st place at the Tour of Flanders, but a short period of rest saw him skip Paris-Roubaix and he is said to be in good shape again ahead of his last appointment of the spring.

Jorgenson’s talents have long-since been known, but as for his standing as one of the best riders in the world, this season has been a real breakthrough during his inaugural campaign as a member of Visma-Lease a Bike. A victory in Paris-Nice exemplified his climbing credentials, whilst a solo rampage at Dwars door Vlaanderen demonstrated his talents in one-day racing.

With Tiesj Benoot as a co-leader of the Dutch WorldTeam on Sunday, Jorgenson has the potential to rescue an oft-blighted spring season for Visma-Lease a Bike. He should not be underestimated on the day’s decisive climbs.

Read more: Matteo Jorgenson and the blessings of a lifetime of near-misses

Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM)

Often guiding her rivals to a treasure she cannot possess, Kasia Niewiadoma can actually count Amstel Gold Race amongst her palmarès, having won the race back in 2019. To this day, her victory over Annemiek van Vleuten and Marianne Vos, second and third, respectively, remains one of the biggest of her career.

The Polish rider will be back at Amstel for the seventh time in succession and hoping to repeat her success, or at the very least, match her top five performances from 2017, 2022 and 2023. As evidenced by her impressive run of the results, Amstel Gold Race is one that suits Niewiadoma to a tee, with the climbs more than difficult enough to whittle down the favourites group should a hard pace be set at the front of the race.

The 29-year-old heads into the Ardennes following a short but positive Spring Classics campaign that saw her finish seventh at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, fourth at Strade Bianche and runner-up at the Tour of Flanders. The 2019 winner is trending in the right direction and will almost certainly be well in the mix on Sunday, as she looks for a first road win in almost five years.

Benoît Cosnefroy (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale)

Winner of De Brabantse Pijl on Wednesday, Benoît Cosnefroy heads into Sunday’s race with all the confidence in the world and with the support of a resurgent Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale team. The French WorldTeam welcomed Decathlon as co-title sponsors over the winter and with the addition of in-house brand Van Rysel as bike manufacturer, have already taken as many wins as they did during the entire 2023 campaign.

A solid performer for the team since his debut in 2016, Cosnefroy has continued to excel in one-day races over the past couple of years, with his De Brabantse Pijl success coming just weeks after a victory at Paris-Camembert in a similar reduced-group sprint. Such a scenario could well occur on Sunday at Amstel Gold Race and the French whippet could be a great wildcard pick.

The 28-year-old finished second behind the surprising victor Magnus Sheffield in 2022 and after taking his first-ever victory in a non-French-speaking region on Wednesday, Cosnefroy will look to continue to expand his palmarès in the Netherlands this weekend.

Read more: De Brabantse Pijl – Benoît Cosnefroy comes out on top

Silvia Persico (UAE Team ADQ)

Coming into Amstel Gold Race following a consistent Classics campaign across the cobbles and a fleet of Italian one-days, Silvia Persico will be leading the line for UAE Team ADQ on Sunday. With four wins to her name, the Italian is a rider who has often knocked on the door of a big result without an answer. Persico came up trumps at De Brabantse Pijl this time last year, but to win Amstel Gold Race would be a statement of intent heading into Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

A dependable climber with a strong kick in the finish, Persico is one of a number of riders who could place well in this race should the big favourites slip up. Her last outing was at the Tour of Flanders two weeks ago, where she placed seventh as part of the second group across the line.

In skipping Paris-Roubaix Femmes, she should be fresher than some of her rivals and with the confidence of a good ride at the Tour of Flanders, Persico should be in and amongst the action for much of the race on Sunday.

Michael Matthews (Jayco AlUla)

Michael Matthews has rediscovered the spark of old for Jayco AlUla since returning to WorldTour-winning ways in 2022. Stage victories in the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia have followed, as has a second place in Milan-San Remo earlier this season. Now 33 years of age, Matthews is showing no signs of slowing down and is continuing to prove himself one of the peloton’s most versatile sprinters.

Read more: Bittersweet Milan-San Remo for Michael Matthews after losing sprint to Jasper Philipsen

Often more a puncheur than an out-and-out sprinter since he won the Tour de France green jersey in 2017, Matthews certainly has the capabilities to win a race like Amstel Gold Race. The Australian has finished third, fourth and fifth here in the past, and would be fancied more than most in a reduced-group sprint.

The only question mark for Matthews is how difficult the race will prove to be on Sunday. Should some of the peloton’s supreme climbers look to push a punishing pace over the (many) climbs, Matthews will have a difficult job hanging on their coattails until the finish. But if there’s any messing about and things come back together at the front, look to Matthews to gain revenge for his demotion from the Tour of Flanders podium.

Read more: Michael Matthews relegated from Tour of Flanders podium for sprint deviation

For the latest racing news from the world of professional cycling, be sure to check out the Racing News tab on the GCN website and visit our essential guide to The Spring Classics to stay up to date with all of the action from cycling's most exciting season.

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