Amstel Gold Race
Coming into Amstel Gold I must admit that I was a little bit apprehensive about the task at hand – getting into the break for a 260km Ardennes Classic. A couple of things about this: I’d never raced anything further than 220km, and I’d never actually been in a breakaway from the gun. Sure I’ve been in some breaks or gotten into later moves, and I’d tried a few times to get into the early break at Volta a Catalunya without success. Usually, my job would be to save myself for the climbs.
So, I was pretty pleased when I found myself in a group of 6, riding across to another group of 6, forming the breakaway of 12 for the day. It took an effort of about 400 watts for 6 minutes to get across, and then we got settled in for what would be a long day.
I can’t recall the amount of food I stuffed into my face. It was lots. My file at the end of the day said I burned about 6000 calories, nearly 3 times the daily intake. Averaging nearly 240 watts for 7 hours will do that! I was trying to eat something every ~30 minutes, and drink a bidon every hour – which is harder than it sounds. My favorite bit of food for the day was the nutella and banana croissant…
We had been riding reasonably well together for a total of 210 km and a little bit over 5 hours before the peloton caught us, with 50km still left to race. Admittedly it was a fair bit earlier than I would have liked. But after hearing post-race stories from those back in the peloton, apparently some teams including Movistar and BMC were setting a rather uncomfortable chase, and every climb was not comfortable in the wheels. If you have 35 climbs, you’d expect a few of them to be pretty easy and slow…
The hardest times for me during the day was when I had to roll through on the flats or downhill, but most times when we hit the hills, things felt reasonably easy. Pulling downhill at nearly 5watts/kilo, only to have a big guy like Lars Boom freewheel past is demoralizing. Lars also had nearly every spectator on the roadside cheering for him as we went past, but not all! I did get a couple “go Canty” or “go Australia” along the way, mostly coming somewhere from one of the many packed pubs or bars!
We got caught, and about 10 km’s later the race winning moves were starting to take place. My body was reasonably tired, but I’ve definitely felt more fatigued for shorter or easier days. In fact, I was a little bit surprised by how well the body had coped. My job was done, but my day wasn’t over as I was fairly motivated to keep riding to the finish. Sure, there was a little bit of pride in finishing the race rather than stepping off the bike in my first Ardennes Classic, but it was mostly because I didn’t feel like I was suffering too badly. The rationale for finishing the race when you’ve already been going for 5 and a half hours was simply too strong.
Maybe I can think of it as course recon for the future. If you have a look at the route on my strava file here, it looks like Mr. Squiggle art. Passing the same points twice or three times throughout the day all from different directions became confusing. The recon two days before definitely helped, but it’s fair to say we weren’t going to recon 260km!! Everyone else on our team had ridden at least one Amstel before, and knew all of the climb names, locations and corners.
We were also extremely fortunate with the weather, as it is currently raining on our bus transfer to a new hotel before La Fleche Wallonne. Fingers crossed that things stay clear for this Wednesday! I won’t be racing Liège-Bastogne-Liège now, as Amstel Gold wasn’t in my original calendar, things have been shuffled around to give me a little bit more rest before starting the Tour of Romandie. It’s a day for recovery today, and most likely tomorrow, before pinning a number on again.
As always, thanks for reading and the support!