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Rest Day Roundup: Amstel, Italians, CX...

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Amstel Gold Race Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Ugh, home sick today... Ronse’s Revenge? The Frankfurt Flu? I’ll try not to fall asleep in the middle of a sentence, but no promises.

Amstel Gold Finish Changes

Every year we see changes at the classics that alter how we think the race will be won, but a lot of those changes are much ado about nothing. Not so with Amstel Gold, which has significantly realigned the finish to give more hope to a broader range of cyclists, not just the Fleche Wallonne end-of-race climbers but fearless attackers and master strategists as well.

It took me a few moments to sort out the details, thanks to some of the worst official maps you can imagine. The best illustration (of a number of very bad choices) is this map which shows the last two finales side by side, with the red line indicating the penultimate passage and the black line the final lap.

Amstel Gold Race 2017 finale

Here’s a screenshot of the road book, enlarged to the point where you can sort of read it, which I thought was the point of a road book but what do I know?

AGR finale climbs

So yeah, the penultimate lap approaches the line just like the old finale did, over the Cauberg, but on the last lap they ditch the final approach and take a shortcut to the line. This means the Cauberg is last seen with 18.9km to go. The last two climbs, #s 34 and 35 on the day in your program, are the Guelhemmerberg with 14.2k remaining and the Bemelerberg with 5.6k left.

The former is 1km of climbing at 5.8%, according to climbbybike. The latter, the Bemelerberg, will decide the race on its 700 meters at 5%. Of course, the point of all these changes is that neither of these climbs is all that decisive by nature, so the race could be determined... practically anywhere else. The organizers want a more wide-open race, after too many editions where the riders waited for the Cauberg, and ironically they might still get a race decided on the Cauberg... it’s just that it’ll be a lot more exciting for that to happen with a full 19k left to sort out.

Le Tour de France 2016 - Stage Fourteen Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Nibali Tries to Lift Aru’s Spirits

Heard the one about Vinny and Fab? The two icons of Italian grand tour cycling have been linked throughout Fabio Aru’s career, which started at Astana moments before the senio Vincenzo Nibali was brought in to captain the squad. Two hopes for the nation, both from regions of Mezzogiorno with little cycling history, teammates and then stars. It seemed a bit sad when their relationship didn’t seem to match the fraternal expectations of press and fans, a product of competing for team leadership.

But Cyclingnews reports that the two became closer friends as teammates at the Tour de France and Olympics last summer. So when Aru crashed in training and hurt his knee, badly enough it was thought to cancel his appearance at the Giro, it was Nibali who reached out to him with a letter that supposedly appeared in La Gazzetta dello Sport (though I can’t find it). The letter appealed to Aru to not give up hope, that sometimes the body can overcome, and that it’s too important for Aru to try his hand at the Giro, which starts in his home of Sardinia.

I haven’t seen any reaction from Aru; last seen he was home recuperating with 10 days off the bike. One would think such a grand gesture would give him some temporary hope. Miracles are another matter, but we’ll see.

Van Aert wins Bieles Worlds 2017 Tim De WaeleLC/Tim De Waele/Corbis via Getty Images

Brief Panic in the Cross World

Yesterday word broke from Veldritkrant.be that Wout Van Aert, the two-time cyclocross defending world champion, was orienting his season around riding the cobbled classics — road races — starting with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in late February. The implication was that he would have to cut his ‘Cross season short, and would generally signal the migration to road racing that has lured away so many talented ‘Crossers.

Today the follow-up story came out and put those existential fears to rest. Via Het Nieuwsblad, team manager Nick Nuyens said that Van Aert’s main priorities will remain the CX nats and worlds, with a trip to the Ronde van Vlaanderen a strong possibility but not so much of a robust road campaign. The plans aren’t set yet.

The article even checks in on Mathieu van der Poel, because you can’t write about one without the other, and he too doesn’t sound like he’s ditching CX anytime soon. For starters, his Beobank-Corendon team isn’t pro-continental, so he can’t expect invites to the big races until that changes or he moves to another team. Anyway, van der Poel basically shot down the idea of big changes for 2018.

Retirement Tom, Day 2

Every day the Belgian press checks in on Tom Boonen and how his retirement is going. So far, there are no clues that he plans to change his mind. Yesterday he tweeted a photo of himself on the floor playing with his daughters. Today he apparently got out for a few hours to the F1 track at Zolder. Stay tuned tomorrow where he hangs out at the park with a friend while his kids sit in the sandbox.