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Amstel Gold Pocket Preview!

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Bas Czerwinski, AFP/Getty

Blogging from vacationland... So it's not going to be a work of art. Unless! You guys jump in and help. Community, that's what it's all about.

Amstel Gold Race is the favorite of many folks, be they Dutch or just into fun, unpredictable races in gorgeous northern European scenery. It's the next step on the slow transition to all-out climbing, with 33 ascents largely from the power-climb category, but occasionally a true climber's climb. Some 4000 meters of uphill are included. It's selective for pretty much everyone, provided someone forces it to be, and someone usually does.

AGR 15 climbs

What's New

Not much. Same course from the last few years. The race has signed contracts to keep things in place for another five years. Of course, the finish line was moved from the top of the Cauberg to shortly afterward, which reshuffled the deck rather nicely and made for some more aggressive racing. Or maybe the cycling world just changed at the same time (coughlessdopingcough). Anyway, the finale remains the same, and that's a very good thing.

What's Interesting

As usual, the race's signature is its taking place in the Netherlands, where it was incorporated into a holiday weekend honoring the royal family. [Now I believe it is a week earlier, for reasons too complicated to get into.] It's the biggest and best day of racing in a country that's really into cycling, except in years when the Tour de France starts in Utrecht. It's a big deal, as such, for whatever Dutch teams are there. Rabobank was always under huge pressure to do something, a factor that has followed it, no doubt, to its new incarnation as Lotto NL.

Who's Got This?

So many. The startlist includes EVERYONE. Conor is running thru the individual favorites. But I will say this: the following teams are loaded to the brim, and had better be doing something here...

  • BMC -- coming off the Brabantse win, and between Gilbert (three wins here) and Van Avermaet, they have the tools.
  • Katusha -- J-Rod is a top favorite, although he's better at the next two events. Lots of support.
  • Trek -- Bauke Mollema, Felline, Arredondo and a Schleck.
  • Giant-Alpecin -- Dumoulin, Barguil et al.
  • Orica-GreenEdge -- Gerro, Matthews (super strong now), Albasini, Simon Clark. Great lineup.
  • Sky -- Just Sky.

Pick To Win

I'm going for the hero move... Tom Dumoulin!

Told you that would be fast. Who ya got??