Amstel Gold is a relatively newer classic, its first race only taking place in 1966. After a few organisational mishaps, it raced from Breda to Meerssen. The next year the race started from Amstel’s HQ in Helmond.
1968 saw the race moved to September and 1969 was a snowy race. A tough few years for the new race. Initially the race struggled to get the best riders but the race managed to attract the great Eddy Merckx in 1973, who went on to win it twice. Jan Raas dominated the race in the late 1970s, taking 5 wins in 6 years.
The 1990s saw the race move to Maastricht and become hillier as a result. An unintended side-effect is it seems to have prevented Dutch riders from winning a home race – only 3 have won since 1992. The Cauberg hill became the finish line in 2003 which changed which riders were now likely to win the race.
The Ardennes specialists now had the most success. Riders that finish strongly on the Mur de Huy now had another race to win. Philippe Gilbert showed his hill sprint dominance with 4 wins between 2010 & 2017. From 2013 an extension was added after the top of the Cauberg which meant the race wasn’t decided solely on the hill. The 2017 route switch to approach the finish from ‘the other side’ hoped to reward riders for not just waiting for the final climb.
On paper, the pre-race favourite won the race. In actuality, it was so much more than that.
With 37km to go, Julian Alaphilippe attacked and was joined by Jakob Fuglsang to continue their 2019 Spring Classics bromance. Kwiatkowski and Trentin were chasing.
With just 7 km to go, Van Der Poel attacked out of the 4th group on the road, 30 seconds behind Kwiatkowski/Trentin and 1 minute behind the front pair. Van Der Poel chased everyone down, single-handedly.
Kwiatkowski had joined the pair with 1km to go too. But as Alaphilippe opened up his sprint, Van Der Poel smashed past to take a scarcely believable win.
The Cauberg used to be the finish line of Amstel Gold but the route changed in 2017 so the finale approaches from the other side. The climb is 1.2km long at an average of 5.8%.
The Cauberg still plays a large part in the race with 3 ascents before the finish. The climb has also been included in the Tour de France and in 5 separate World Championship road races.