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Women's Amstel Gold Race History
After a year off for Covid, the women’s Amstel Gold Race returned last season. It was heavily altered, turned into a large circuit based around the Cauberg, the Geulhemmerberg and the Bemelerberg. The constant climbing was hoped to be attritional but ultimately we saw a reasonably large sprint after the Cauberg. Despite the attack of Niewiadoma, no-one would work with her and it proved fruitless. Vos took the sprint ahead of Demi Vollering and Annemiek van Vleuten. Vos celebrated a touch too early and nearly lost the race to Vollering, making it unnecessarily tight on the line!
Previously, the women’s Amstel Gold Race has had an on-again off-again history. 3 editions took place between 2001 and 2003 before the race was stopped. Organisers at the time cited issues with ensuring the men’s and women’s races didn’t fall over each other out on the road. The Amstel Gold Race reappeared in the 2017 season, Anna van der Breggen won with a late solo attack. Chantal Blaak beat Lucinda Brand and Amanda Spratt in a 3-up sprint in 2018’s race. Kasia Niewiadoma kept Annemiek van Vleuten at bay in 2019 after she gained an advantage on the final ascent of the Cauberg.
During the years in-between the Amstel Gold Races (2004-2016), the Holland Hills Classic was run later in the year. Marianne Vos was a 3-time winner and Lizzie Deignan also won twice. The pair of Annemiek Van Vleuten and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio are the remaining active riders to win that version of the race.
The weather looks good around Valkenburg for Sunday. A solid temperature of 9 degrees that could be colder but will no doubt feel warmer in the sun. There’s also not much wind to worry about, only 8mph from the SW. That means it will be blowing into the riders’ faces on the final climb of the Cauberg and then a head-crosswind all the way to finish at Berg-en-Terlijt. With that in mind, it will probably be tough for anyone to stay away after the Cauberg unless they’re part of a decent small group prepared to work together.
Sunday 10th April 2022
Live on Eurosport & GCN
Twitter: #AGR22 or #amstelgoldraceladiesedition or #AGRwomen
Women's Amstel Gold Race 2022 Contenders
Despite coming close plenty of times, the women’s Amstel Gold Race isn’t one that Annemiek van Vleuten has won so far. The 3-time podium finisher has come so close on a number of occasions but has either been distanced on the Cauberg by enough or outsprinted. It feels like she needs to get to the finish solo to win but we’ve not seen that stinging attack from her so far this year. Maybe on the climb at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana but FDJ still almost clung on. I suspect it might be another visit to the podium but not the top step. Unlike previous years, Movistar has two strong options if it comes back together after the Cauberg. Emma Norsgaard hasn’t raced Amstel Gold Race before but is in strong consistent form so far this year. The winner of Le Samyn des Dames will be in with a shot if she can crest the Cauberg well. Her success on that climb is the only area of doubt. Arlenis Sierra was 4th at the Tour of Flanders and taking that form into Amstel Gold Race makes her a really strong candidate for the win. If Movistar can do what they failed to do in Flanders and switch tactics for Sierra then she becomes a huge threat to SD Worx in a final sprint.
We’ve only got 2 former winners racing at this year’s Amstel Gold Race and one of them is Kasia Niewiadoma. She took an impressive win here in 2019 holding off a chasing Van Vleuten after the Cauberg. Because of that win, she’s become a bit of a marked rider on the Cauberg. Elisa Longo Borghini famously wouldn’t work with her in last year’s race, much to Kasia’s annoyance. Niewiadoma has been solid in 2022, with 4th at Strade Bianche and 8th at Ronde van Vlaanderen. I think the wind prevents a repeat of 2019 here but she will be close to the podium. Teammate Soraya Paladin should play a supporting role this year but has had good results here in the past too with 5th in both 2019 and 2021. If Canyon SRAM can get both to the front, they’ve got a chance for a first win since last July.
FDJ were super impressive at the Tour of Flanders with 3 riders finishing in the top-10.
The team’s focus should be Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig who has been 6th and 7th in recent editions. The Cauberg is a perfect climb for Uttrup Ludwig but it’s always that stretch to the finish line that prevents her from finishing higher. The smaller the group at the finish, the more likely Uttrup Ludwig is to get onto the podium. Her teammate Marta Cavalli has surprisingly never gone well at the women’s Amstel Gold Race. A best finish of only 33rd means we should expect the team to be fully behind their Danish star. You can’t ignore Brodie Chapman at the moment, we’ve seen her on the attack at both Dwars door Vlaanderen and the Tour of Flanders, which saw her finish 9th in the last one. If you can hang on over on the Paterberg, then the Cauberg shouldn’t cause too many issues.
SD Worx comes with a team where every rider will be strong on this parcours. Demi Vollering will probably get the lead role after finishing 7th here for Parkhotel Valkenburg in 2019 and then 2nd last year behind Marianne Vos. The team should cover moves on the Cauberg and set up a finale for Vollering to win from a reduced bunch. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio will have an important role to play there as the Cauberg really suits her power profile. With the finish so far from the top of the climb, I expect her to neutralise moves made by other teams and help bring things back for Vollering. She was 9th here last year in that role. After finishing 3rd at the Tour of Flanders last weekend, former Amstel Gold Race winner Chantal van den Broek-Blaak is the team’s wildcard. There are a number of ways you can see her being used, from simply working on the flat, to attacking early on or even attacking the Cauberg. I don’t think she’ll be in the lead role in this one though.
The team also has the young trio of Niamh Fisher-Black, Anna Shackley and Kata Blanka Vas. The first two played an important role on and after the Cauberg and were able to finish 12th and 17th themselves despite all their efforts for the team as a whole. The Cauberg suits both riders and there is always a chance that SD Worx overwhelm everybody else they also finish in the top-10 this year. Kata Blanka Vas should go strong and has the potential to be a future winner in this race. It’s the Hungarian rider’s first road race of the year, however, so maybe expectations should be tempered this season.
Trek Segafredo went missing at the Tour of Flanders but they shouldn’t have similar issues at Amstel Gold Race. Elisa Balsamo is the form rider at the moment and she’s made the top-10 here before in 2019. It will be up to the teams with puncheurs to drop Balsamo on the Cauberg, which is possible but tough. With Balsamo in her current form, you can see her not getting dropped and blitzing the sprint. Outside of Strade Bianche,
Elisa Longo Borghini hasn’t looked at her strongest so far in 2022. I thought she might come good at the Tour of Flanders where she might have a lead role but she finished 32nd. I suspect we’ll see her working for Balsamo to get in the best position after the Cauberg and we’ll see her kill any breaks. Lucinda Brand was 2nd here in 2018, losing in the sprint to Van den Broek-Blaak. She looked almost strong at Dwars door Vlaanderen, just launching her sprint too early. We did see her attack at the Tour of Flanders on the Molenberg but then Brand finished well down. She’s going to be a super domestique for Balsamo I think.
Surprisingly, there’s no Marianne Vos on the start list here in 2022. That means Coryn Labecki could have the leadership duties but it’s been a while since she finished 6th in 2017’s women’s Amstel Gold Race. Labecki was 6th in Trofeo Alfredo Binda this season but finished well down at the Tour of Flanders whilst doing a job to get Marianne Vos back into the front group. If Labecki brings that Trofeo Binda form here, she’ll be a contender. Her teammate Riejanne Markus was a superb 4th here in 2018 whilst at WaowDeals. She’d made the break that Marianne Vos didn’t and was the team’s best rider on the day. You imagine she’s in a more supportive role here though this season. British rider Anna Henderson has never raced Amstel Gold before but has shown good form in 2022 already. She was part of the break at the Tour of Flanders and finished a creditable 28th. But back at Omloop het Nieuwsblad, she finished a strong 7th place. With no Vos, we might see Henderson let off the leash for a strong result here.
Both of UAE Team ADQ’s Mavi Garcia and Sofia Bertizzolo have had good results at the women’s Amstel Gold Race. Mavi Garcia was 6th in last year’s race, the last rider to finish on the same time as winner Marianne Vos. Garcia didn’t put in a particularly big sprint and was pipped to the line by both Spratt and Paladin. That’s always going to be the issue for her in getting a better result here. Sofia Bertizzolo was 13th in 2018’s women’s Amstel Gold Race and if the team can get her up the Cauberg in contention, that should make her the best shout. We’ve seen her sprint to 2nd at Trofeo Alfredo Binda already this season in similar circumstances.
Ceratizit WNT’s Maria Giulia Confalonieri is in some form at the moment. The 3rd place at Gent Wevelgem was the result she’d been missing after a couple of close calls to a WWT podium in recent years. Obviously she managed the hills fine that day but fell back a little bit recently at Ronde van Drenthe and the Tour of Flanders on some of the steep cobbled climbs. Confalonieri has never done the Amstel Gold Race before so there is a question mark on how she’d fare on the Cauberg. If she can make it over the top, she becomes a possibly surprise favourite in a sprint finish.
I’ve included Amanda Spratt here for her past results but there is the caveat that she’s still finding her absolute best form still after off-season surgery. We did see Spratt make an attack with around 70km to go at the Tour of Flanders and whilst it didn’t stick, it was encouraging to see. Ultimately, Spratt finished 33rd there. Previously, she’s been 3rd and 4th at Amstel Gold so it’d be interesting to see how she fares this year in the circumstances.
This is another one of those races where you’d think the lead Team DSM trio would be good. However, between them, Juliette Labous‘ 16th place last year is their best result at any Amstel Gold Race. Floortje Mackaij is always solid but has only ever finished between 26-35th place and Liane Lippert DNFed her only go at the race in 2019. You can see how an in-form Liane Lippert would make short work of the Cauberg and then be involved at the pointy end of the race. Unfortunately Lippert was a DNS at Flanders after falling ill, so it remains to be seen if she races here and how she will feel. Their overall form is ok but not great, so it’s tough to tip any of the 3 to make it onto the podium at this year’s race.
Valcar’s Silvia Persico DNFed her only Amstel Gold Race but that was back in 2018. She’s been one of the surprise stars of the 2022 season so far. Maybe missing that outright top-drawer result, Persico has been remarkably consistent across almost all of the spring classics so far. Since making the top-10 at Strade Bianche, the only WWT race she’s not finished in the top-12 is the sprinter’s classic Brugge-De Panne where she was 27th. Expect Persico to be up there again and with a reasonable sprint against some of the puncheurs here, might break the top-5.
Women's Amstel Gold Race 2022 Outsiders
Parkhotel Valkenburg’s Mischa Bredewold is a great attacking rider and we’ve seen that already in 2022. She was a great 23rd at the Tour of Flanders for her best result of the year so far. On the local roads for the team, they will want to be noticed and I think we can expect to see Bredewold make a move or two in the hope that the attack sticks.
We saw Le Col-Wahoo rider Maike van der Duin in the break at the Tour of Flanders and she looked super impressive climbing the infamous Koppenberg. With that in mind, maybe the Cauberg won’t be too hard for her and we know that she has a good sprint too. Van der Duin already has plenty of top-10s this year at Bloeizone Fryslan and Drentse Acht. Her move at the Tour of Flanders suggests that we’re going to see even more from the Dutch rider.
Plantur Pura’s Yara Kastelijn feels so close to a major result. She was once around in the top-25 at the Tour of Flanders without quite making it to the front. We know she can climb well and the climbs at the women’s Amstel Gold Race shouldn’t post many problems. At this point, we’d love to see Kastelijn blitz the Cauberg and push on to the next level. The climbs might be a touch too hard for her teammate Julie de Wilde but we’ve seen her make it into the front groups at Nokere Koerse and Omloop van het Hageland already this year. Obviously that result at Dwars door Vlaanderen will give her great confidence and it’s speculative add here that she makes it over the Cauberg and can sprint at the end.
After not seeing much from Roland Cogeas in 2022, Tamara Dronova suddenly came to the fore with 8th at Gent Wevelgem and 14th at Dwars door Vlaanderen. Both are rides where the climbing was done relatively early and headed to a sprint finish. So the question mark for me here is whether she has the punch to take on the Cauberg so late on into a race and still be able to sprint at the finish.
Finally, we’ve got Nicole Steigenga of Team Coop-Hitec Products. She’s always game for an attack and I suspect we’ll see her make an exploratory attacking move before the final ascent of the Cauberg. That may mean Steigenga doesn’t get a super high finishing position at the end of Amstel Gold but she’s certainly not going to wonder after the race if she could’ve done more.