1996 Results and Reports
Photo of the RouteQuite Large
Bill's Guide to the Amstel Gold Race in Zuid-LimburgThe Amstel Gold Race is staged in Zuid-Limburg (South Limburg) in the "Heuvelland" (hills) of the Netherlands....the alps of the Netherlands.
Well when most of the place is below sea-level, a ramp off the main road to Eindhoven is probably a hill. But I have to say that while I joke, this is my favourite part of the world. I go there every year (live in Maastricht) and race all around this region. I would like to think I know all the roads and the hills and so for me the Amstel Gold Race is very special.
Not tough enough to be on par with the RVV or LBL but still full of classic narrow farm road "killer" climbs and a winding route through beautiful Dutch villages. And my favourite climb anyway ...the Keutenberg, just off the main road from Valkenburg to Vaals. You go past this holiday camp along a narrow lane, turn right and then left and suddenly the gradient is sheer (23 per cent), and then for around 800 metres you climb up this narrow track up over the farm land below, finally coming to a small group of houses at the top.
So lets take a tour of the area. This is not the exact route that the race will follow but nearly!
Start: Heerlen 0 km- an old coal mining town before the Dutch rationalised (closed down) their industry. Nothing much is there now by way of industry although quite a population remains. It is a relatively depressed area out on the Dutch border with Germany. Famous in cycling for the Profronde each August.
The race goes south and then east to Kerkrade a town on the German Border.
10:52h Sittard 26 km - North west of Heerlen,, mostly undulating farming land (cattle), close to the German border. Sittard has a great bike shop and if they sponsor my pages for a year I will disclose their name!
The race then goes in the direction of Maastricht (south west) through Beek and down to Meerssen past the International Airport. There are some short hills usually into or out of the small villages here. At Meerssen, we come to the site of the Dutch Road Championships for the last several years. There is a tough climb (the finishing stretch of the Road course) out of Meerssen along the way to Valkenburg.
11:25h Valkenburg 45 km - First time through "falcon village". It is a place to stay away from in summer because it is a major tourist centre in the zuid-limburg region. It is full of outdoor bars, souvenir shops; it has a Casino and some questionable sorts of night spots, mini golf, and it is pretty gaudy. it does have a nice cave built into the ridge that runs along this area and they used to mine a distinctive rock which was used in the buildings in this area. It has one gem - De Cauberg, the hill that goes out of the centre of the village and takes you along a back road along the plateau and down into Maastricht some 25 kms away (direct).
De Cauberg is used in almost every race that goes through this area. In racing I have always used a big ring (53) and about a 19 to 21 depending on how shot I have been. But I am light and can climb. In training, we go up it in a 42 and complain about how steep it is.
It starts climbing straight out of Valkenburg along the shops and small houses, and through an row of overhanging trees. After about 800 metres you veer slightly to the left and it flattens a bit but by then your legs are suffering. Over the top you veer to the right, head west to Maastricht. The 1992 Tour de France Stage 7 (?) finished just past here in Berg. Remember Stephen Roche getting beaten at the last sprint.
They do not do the hill first time through. They ride out along the Geul valley and then over some hills to Ubachsberg (just south of Heerlen) with a steep hill just out of the village.
On the way back to Valkenburg they climb a couple of very steep hills including the first pass over the Sibbergrube (1200 metres long and 159 metres high), which winds its way up of the main road just out of Valkenburg (east) and then takes the race along the plateau.
11:54h Sibbergrube 63 km - The route into Maastricht goes through Berg which is just past Valkenburg and the hill here is long and steep. You come through some trees running along the Geul and then across a small bridge and turn left past a pub on the right and the climb starts and runs up the through all the houses into the small village of Berg.
At the bottom is another great bike shop but slightly expensive.
From Berg they have to go up the 5th climb called Bemelerberg (700 metres long and 125 metres high) which takes them sharply into the little village of Bemelen. Then it is off the plateau down in the river valley and Maastricht. It is a long steady climb up the plateau from Maastricht, and great coming down after a long ride out into Germany or down south east into the Ardennes.
12:09h Maastricht 73 km - the first pass through Maastricht. It is an old town on the river Maas (meuse) and has about 100,000 people. Also very crowded in summer. Ceramic industry is big and it has a large regional university which was built as a sop to the Limburgers when the coal industry was closed down in the early 1980s.
The route then goes back out into the hills to Cadier en Keer with the next main climb being at Bergenhuizen (500 metres long, 180 metres high) which is between the village of Mheer and Norbeek (close to the Belgian border).
I recall once being out and climbing slowly up Bergenhuizen which goes sharply off the main road from Gronsveld (which also has a decent bike shop) and Noorbeek. You turn left and it is very steep until you start easing through some houses and then you come to a T with some old farm houses and fields at the top. This day there were three little kids on their bikes hanging around a farmhouse at the top as I gasped by, and they said "Gert Jan Theunisse - nu kop!", which says they think he is the top. I muttered something like "ja, een kop dopen taker, dat mag er zijn". This was just after he had been in strife with the UCI.
Next climb is very long De Loorberg (1200 mtrs long, 220 high) and is tucked in a camping, forest-type area just near Slenaken. It is a steady slope.
First pass over Gulpenerberg (900 long, 155 high) - see below for a description.
After that the race goes south east through Mechelen and then they climb another fairly steady but leg-sapping and long climb called the Schweiberg (1700 long, 220 high) which goes past the village and through the Kosberg. This is in the extreme south east of Limburg and is a very popular picnic area and camping and bar area. There are several very sharp hills coming in and out of the forest area. All around is farming land.
Next stop Epen (a tourist village) which is in the bottom of the valley here. You turn sharp left at the end of the village and off-camber down hill (It is very easy on a damp day to hit this corner too fast and to end up across the road into a fence which is on the corner. Not me. But I have seen it happen. Generally you have to make sure you don't overcook the corner. Then it is down the road, left sweep, right, across the Geul bridge, on the right there is always an ijs van (ice cream) which gets big lines of customers on a Sunday.
The road starts winding up and you are then ascending the tough Camerig (3000 long, 270 high) - it is long - 3kms and winds up to the left at a steady slope although about half way as it swings to the left it seems to get pretty tough. On the left is a caravan park and then a bar. As you enter the forest, it goes down a bit and then swings to the left, deep in the forest, and rises sharply again. At the top, you turn right and head along the plateau through the trees. Then you come out and descend sharply with some switchbacks down into the direction of Vaals.
The race then head in the direction of Germany and Belgium (both being near) and the next climb is at the little Belgian village of Gemmenich (I think it is in Belgium - although it is pretty close to Germany - like a row of houses or so away). This is a pretty village set on a hill and the climb out of Gemmenich (600 long, 280 high) is shortish but hard.
Thanks to Wilfried (who lives at Heerlen) I can tell you geography buffs that Gemmenich is in Belgie (updated correction tuesday 29/4)
14:07h Drielandenpunt 145 km - self explanatory. The place where you can be in three countries at the same time. Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. Along the way out of here, the race goes through the hills near Slenaken (a tourist town), Mechelen, Vijlen, Vaalserbos - all roads I call my favourites - long and hard hills, through small treed areas (the Dutch call them forests), interspersed with a village or two. The Camerig is one pretty tough hill. Farming land. The Three Lands Point is the Hoogste punt van Nederland (the Highest Point) and is about 340 metres. A great ride early in the morning before the tourist traffic starts. The road is very winding to the top and the view is pretty neat.
The race heads back into the NL via Vaals a non-descript border town with anoth good bike shop.
I think they do the Dode Man climb now coming out of Wiljre. It is a significant climb. The Dode Man - the "Dead Man" hill just out of Wiljre near the "Watermolen van Wiljre". You die on the Dode Man. It keeps going up for what seems like ages. About 1.5 kms long and steep. over the top you on the flat of the plateau (near the Keutenberg with not downhill relief). You ride along narrow farm lanes.
Next hill is the 1 km long Vijlenerberg (1000 long, 260 high) as they head south west again back into the direction of Belgium. The sharp Eperheide (1400 long, 220 high) follows wich is through a small tourist village of the same name between Epen and Slenaken.
Back to the Gulpenerberg
13:06h Gulpenerberg 108 km - Home of the Foreldorado fun camp which sponsors the Foreldorado-Golff team. Also home of the World Cup MTB course. Also home of the Cyclo Cross course. Gulpen (pronounced hoolpen = sort of) is a village built in a valley and extend up either side of the hill. Each year (about) the Geul River floods and leaves a lot of nasty residues which have come up the maas from the Belgian industry area around Liege. People have to change the topsoil when they sell houses in this area.
My favourite aspect of Gulpen - surprise surprise - is the Gulpenerberg which is on the east side of the road (N 279) coming from Maastricht, or south as you come in from Vaals (direction from Germany). While only around 160 metres high it is a really steep climb to the top. Once up the top you get great views of the zuid-east of Limburg. If you are on a bike racing you get a view of nothing much at all. You are just gasping. Bart Brentjens and Adri v.d. Poel train around here often. My pal Tom who looks over the Gulpenberg from his back window, sees Bart almost every day.
Heading east towards Germany, the race crosses the N278 (main road from Maastricht to Vaals-Aachen), and the Village of Whalwiller it heads north and over the very short but hard Kruisberg (600 long, 170 high). They cross farmland along narrow roads and then cut over the road from Wittem to Simpelveld and then up the very hard Eyserbos (900 long, 180 high). You approach this by descending off the main road, then past a couple of houses and then it goes straight up. Along the track (very narrow) is a park of sorts with lots of heavy trees on the left and fields on the right. At about 3/4 up there is a religious monument (common here) and if you were religious you might seek some intervention. Phil Anderson attacked here with great success in the past. As you come out of the overhanging trees at the top there are fields, a picknick area and a communications tower. The roads at the top are flat. Tough climb.
Back to Ubachsberg across farm land and through Huls and up the hill there (900 long, 230 high) - tough.
Heading back in the direction of Valkenburg now, south west and across farming country and rolling hills and small lanes. Next climb is at the village of Fromberg (1200 long, 160 high) - a typical heuvalland climb. Following the descent into Etenaken you are just about ready to hit my favourite. Crossing the main road you head south.
This is where they go up to the Keutenberg (400 long, 165 high). My favourite hill. Tough as hell. You go past this caravan park along a flat narrow lane. Then you veer right and left and once left the slope is very steep - the sign says 23 % - steep. I have fallen off here lots of time in the wind, when I have chosen the wrong gear to hit the first corner with. It is 42-23 territory. The climb is then straight up the side of the hill with a valley down below (increasingly below) to the right. As you are gasping, you come to a set of farm houses - in the best location of any house in Europe I think!. Then it flattens out and you head south over the plateau towards Ingber
15:10h Sibbergrubbe 187 km - 20 odd kms to the west and just near Valkenberg. I think they go down this tough hill after going up De Keutenberg, which is followed by De Cauberg (1000 long, 150 high).
15:18h Cauberg 192 km - as before. Powering up in the 53 but suffering like hell.
Probably back through Berg again and into Maastricht.
15:30h Maastricht 198 km - second pass and only 50 kms around the south of Maastricht into Belgium left.
15:31h Pietersberg 199 km - tough hill just south of the city. There is an old fortress on top of the hill overlooking the Maas to th east. Tough hill indeed. Comes out of a small wijk (suburb) called Jekerdal after crossing the Kennedy Bridge (which is the south span of the Maas in Maastricht). Just prior to crossing the brugge you pass the Exhibition Centre where they have rock concerts and also sign important treaties govering European Integration. Don't get the idea that the now (in)-famous Maastricht Treaty was signed in some old European building with chandeliers. No way - it was signed in a huge tin shed.
The Pietersburg takes you down past along the Maas (there are cement works and other industry), crossing eventually the Albert Kanal which was built in the 1930s depression and take big barges north across Belgium.
The race then heads into Belgium and out to Riemst across farming lands. Riemst is this non-descript Belgian town which always seems to be asleep when I ride through it (often when I am over there).
The race heads south in direction Luik and climbs a tough hill just before Houtain-St. Simeon (Belgium). After winding through some small Belgian villages near the canal, Oupeye and Hermalle (mostly very grim industrial areas), along flat roads interspersed with canals, roads, bridges and the main freeway north, the race is nearly into the decisive climb.
By the way, embedded in the side of the Maas on the Belgian side is a fortress called Eben-Emael. It was built to defend Belgium from the Nazis and took some 5-7 years to finish. The Belgians believed it was impregnable and it has kms of tunnels and underground rooms etc. It took the Germans around 20 minutes to take as they swept into Belgium.
16:21h Cote de Halembaye 236 km - this is in Belgium. The race is heading north from Hermalle in the direction of of Vise (north) and Riemst (west). Flat to undulating roads. The main canal runs alongside the Maas. You run through a pretty ugly and dirty town called Haccourt (industry), heading along the 671. Then ahead you see this huge hill - de Halembaye. No big ring this one. Across the small bridge and it starts to climb. It is about 1 km long and gets steeper towards to top. Many major breaks are made on this hill in local and major races. The Tour of Liege goes through this area.
The hill is straight up - no curves. That is what is so imposing about it as you approach it. At the top, it is fast down into Wonke then up a sharp right veering hill, right again and a fast road down into the border village of Kanne. This is the way the Tour came into Maastricht in 1992. The road after Kanne is through farm land again and is fast.
16:30h Cote de Saint Pierre 241 km - They wind over this hill and into Maastricht, and back over Pietersberg and back down to finish by the Maas.
16:38h Maastricht 247 km
16:39h Pietersberg 248 km
16:45h Arrival Maastricht 253 km - I haven't been able to do all the hills and nuances of the route but have given you some idea at least.
The 10 hot-spots of Jan RaasTeam leader of the Rabobank, Jan Raas, won the Amstel Gold Race 5 times. There is nobody who knows the parcours better than him. He will follow the course by car. His favourite? "Johan Museeuw; he has such a strong preseason". His favourite hot-spots for the public (and the hardest places for the riders):
1) SIBBERGRUBBE (71 km) "Always good for an attack. This was the place for the first victory of Eddy Merckx in 1973."
2) GULPENERBERG (116 en 165 km)
"Good for a lot of breaks in the peloton"
3) VIJLENERBERG (149 km)
" A kind of Ardennes-part in the parcours. A lot of riders will come in problems here"
4) EYSERBOSWEG (173 km)
"A good place for the Italians. Here were the attacks by Maurizio Fondriest in 1991 en 1992; while Giorgio Furlan and Davide Cassani did the same in 1993 and 1994"
5) KEUTENBERG (189 km)
"The first time in course in 1972. It's not possible anymore for the spectators to be here. There was a lot of troubles with the great amount of people. In 1990 the organization cancelled the Keutenberg. Now the climb is back, but without audience on the road"
6) CAUBERG (198 km)
"Here starts the final. I remember my first victory. I arrived at the top with Henny Kuiper en Gerrie Knetemann. I was with Frisol, the two other with Raleighs. Like last Sunday in LBL i won on my own from two teammates."
7) GEULHEMMERBERG (203 km)
"For the rider who's fit enough an ideal climb."
8) HALEMBAYE (242 km)
"With the Keutenberg and the Cauberg the most difficult climb. In 1993 the place for Gianni Bugno and Rolf Jaermann and in 1995 for Mauro Giannetti and Davide Cassani".
9) SAINT PIERRE (246 km)
"Last year the place where Stafano Zanini made his attack. He found Armstrong, Svrensen, Peron and Missaglia and rode easily away"
10) PIETERSBERG (213 en 255 km)
"By the second climb mostly the decision is made already".
climb length height (mtrs) (mtrs) 1 Toupsberg 900 150 2 Adsteeg 500 115 3 Lange Raarberg 1200 130 4 Bergseweg 800 170 5 Sibbergrubbe 1200 159 6 Bemelerberg 700 125 7 Bergenhuizen 500 180 8 Loorberg 1700 220 9 Gulpenerberg 900 155 10 Schweiberg 1700 220 11 Camerig 3000 270 12 Gemmenich 600 280 13 Drielandenpunt 1800 320 14 Vijlenerberg 1000 260 15 Eperheide 1400 220 16 Gulpenerberg 700 155 17 Kruisberg 600 170 18 Eyserbos 900 180 19 Huls 900 230 20 Fromberg 1200 160 21 Keutenberg 400 165 22 Cauberg 1000 150 23 G. Hemmberberg 600 125 24 Pietersberg 900 120 25 Muizenberg 900 105 26 St Simeon 1200 135 27 Halembaye 1000 155 28 St Pierre 1000 130 29 Pietersberg 900 120
ONCE come with a strong team. Alex Zulle will start for the first time in the Amstel Gold Race.
Manolo Saiz: 'We have to do something after Luik-Bastenaken-Luik. Jalabert and Zulle are well motived for a sportiv revanche.' (Sporting Revenge).
Other starters: mostly all Italian top-riders (with the leader of the world cup: Michele Bartoli), Bjarne Riis, Johan Museeuw, Peter van Petegem, Erik Zabel, Rolf Sorensen.
Italian Team Mapei will attend the Dutch Classic Amstel Gold Race, the fifth race of the World Cup which will be disputed next Saturday, with their best team which includes World Champion, Belgian Johan Museeuw, Italian Stefano Zanini and also Belgian Frank Vandenbroucke. Joining those three riders will be Belgians Bart Lyessen, Nico Mattan and Wilfried Peeers and Italians Franco Ballerini and Andrea Tafi. Mapei has yet to achieve a World Cup win this season.
Francesco Casagrande will be the captain of Team Saeco at the Amstel Gold Race, the fifth test of the World Cup, which is programmed for Saturday in Holland. Still absent will be Roberto Petito, the winner at Tirreno-Adriatico and the Giro di Sardinia, who is still recovering from a fall that occured on the last stage of the race in Sardinia. Going with Casagrande will be Frigo, Mori, Canzonieri, Rich, Moos and Buschor.
Denmark's Rolf Sorensen is confident of reclaiming sole lead in the World Cup cycling standings when he takes part in the Amstel Gold race between Heerlen and Maastricht on Saturday.
Sorensen's breakaway in the last kilometre of the Tour of Flanders at the beginning of April pushed him to the top of the standings, but last week's Liege-Bastogne-Liege win by Italian sprinter Michele Bartoli left them tied at the top of the table on 164 points.
``It's between me and him who's going to finish the spring with the jersey on. We have the same points. I hope I can do a good race and get away with a victory,'' Sorensen said in a telephone interview.
The 32-year-old Sorensen, a professional for 12 years, believes his current form will give him the edge over Bartoli, who is six years his junior and made his professional debut in 1992.
``My form has been very good. This is one of my best seasons...when you win the Tour of Flanders that has to be one of your best seasons,'' he said.
``My focus this season is the classics. The Amstel should be a very good race for me. I'm of course looking for a podium place otherwise I wouldn't be starting.''
The Amstel is the last of the spring classic World Cup races before the competition breaks for the big summer tours and then resumes in August with Spain's San Sebastian.
Form indicates a fascinating battle between Sorensen and Bartoli for the World Cup leader's rainbow jersey.
Bartoli, winner of last year's Tour of Flanders, is a noted early spring specialist, happy to slug it out amid the cross winds and cobbles of northern European one-day races.
But the conditions also suit Sorensen, who was prominent in the final stages of the Liege-Bastogne-Liege and placed sixth in the jarring Paris-Roubaix World Cup race.
``It's a race a little bit between Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Tour of Flanders. It's a hard race of course, it's the last of the spring classics so people are getting more and more tired,'' said Sorensen.
He believes another factor in his favour will be the desire of his Dutch Rabobank team mates to do well on their home ground as the race wends through the tight turns and short, steep hills between Heerlen and Maastricht in the southern Netherlands.
``Of course being a Dutch team we will want to be at the front controlling the race. We have three or four very good Dutch riders and they will try to do the best they can. I think this must be the race of the year for them, there won't be a problem with motivation,'' Sorensen said.
``I think the team will work 80 percent for me but we have riders like Leon van Bon and (1996 Tour de France stage winner) Michael Boogarde who have to do their own race and then we will see along the way if they have a good day or can help me in the closing stages.''
Sorensen was full of praise for Bartoli's win over Laurent Jalabert in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege, dropping the Frenchman and his ONCE team mate Alex Zuelle of Switzerland in the closing stages after a three-man break.
``Bartoli's performance in Liege-Bastogne-Liege was of course fantastic. We've seen him do this before. But it wasn't so surprising to see Bartoli ride away from Jalabert in the race, I did it myself in the Tour of Flanders,'' said Sorensen.
10:00h Start: Heerlen 0 km 10:52h Sittard 26 km 11:25h Valkenburg 45 km 11:54h Sibbergrube 63 km 12:09h Maastricht 73 km 12:45h Valkenburg 96 km 12:57h Dode Man 103 km 13:06h Gulpenerberg 108 km 14:07h Drielandenpunt 145 km 14:40h Kruisberg 168 km 15:10h Sibbergrubbe 187 km 15:18h Cauberg 192 km 15:30h Maastricht 198 km 15:31h Pietersberg 199 km 16:21h Cote de Halembaye 236 km 16:30h Cote de Saint Pierre 241 km 16:38h Maastricht 247 km 16:39h Pietersberg 248 km 16:45h Arrival Maastricht 253 km
1966 Jean Stablinski (Fra) B. V.d.Kerckhove Jan Hugens (Ned) 1967 Arie Den Hartog (Ned) Cees Lute (Ned) Har. Stevens 1968 Harry Steevens (Ned) Roger Rosiers D. V. Rijckeghem 1969 Guido Reybrouck Jos Huysmans Eddy Merckx 1970 Georges Pintens Willy Vanneste Andri Dierickx 1971 Frans Verbeeck G. Karstens (Ned) Rogier Rosiers 1972 Walter Planckaert Willy De Geest J. Zoetemelk (Ned) 1973 Eddy Merckx Frans Verbeeck H. Vanspringel 1974 G. Knetemann (Ned) Walter Planckaert Walter Godefroot 1975 Eddy Merckx Freddy Maertens Joseph Bruyhre 1976 Freddy Maertens Jan Raas (Ned) Luc Leman 1977 Jan Raas (Ned) G. Kneteman (Ned) H. Kuiper (Ned) 1978 Jan Raas (Ned) Franc. Moser (Ita) J. Zoetemelk (Ned) 1979 Jan Raas (Ned) H. Lubberding (Ned) S.A. Nilsson (Zwe) 1980 Jan Raas (Ned) Alfons De Wolf Sean Kelly (Ier) 1981 Bernard Hinault (Fra) R. De Vlaeminck Alfons De Wolf 1982 Jan Raas (Ned) St. Roche (Ire) Greg. Braun (Ger) 1983 Phil Anderson (Aus) Jan Bogaert Jan Raas (Ned) 1984 Jacq. Hanegraaf (Ned) Kim Andersen (Den) Patrick Versluys 1985 G. Knetemann (Ned) Jef Lieckens Johny Broers (Ned) 1986 Steven Rooks (Ned) J. Zoetemelk (Ned) Ronny Van Holen 1987 Joop Zoetemelk (Ned) Steven Rooks (Ned) Malcolm Elliott (GB) 1988 Jelle Nijdam (Ned) Steven Rooks (Ned) Claude Criquielion 1989 Eric Van Lancker Claude Criquielion Steve Bauer (Can) 1990 A. V. d. Poel (Ned) Luc Roosen Jelle Nijdam (Ned) 1991 Frans Maassen (Ned) M. Fondriest (Ita) D. De Wolf 1992 Olaf Ludwig (Ger) Johan Museeuw Dim. Konychev (GOS) 1993 Rolf Jarmann (Swit) Gianni Bugno (Ita) Jens Heppner (Ger) 1994 Johan Museeuw Br. Cenghialta (Ita)Marco Saligari (Ita) 1995 Mauro Gianetti (Swit) Davide Cassani (Ita)Beat Zberg (Ita) 1996 Stefano Zanini (Ita) Mauro Bettin (Ita) Johan Museeuw