Dutch gunning for Amstel Gold

The Amstel Gold Race marks the start of the final week of the spring classics. Jeff Jones previews t

The Amstel Gold Race marks the start of the final week of the spring classics. Jeff Jones previews t
PIC © TIM DE WAELE The Amstel Gold Race will take place for the 42nd time this Sunday. As the only Dutch ProTour race in spring, it's always a big target for the Rabobank team. But the orange and blue boys have been defeated for the past five years, despite being on the podium each year with Michael Boogerd. The Dutch champion will likely be the team leader again, unless Oscar Freire can overcome his failings on the finishing climb of the Cauberg. Freire has been in solid form this season, winning Milan-San Remo and the Brabantse Pijl, but the Gold Race may be one too many for him. Team CSC is on a high after Stuart O'Grady's win in Paris-Roubaix last weekend. O'Grady won't be part of the line-up for Amstel, but the team does have defending champion Frnk Schleck as its captain. Schleck will be well supported by Karsten Kroon and Jens Voigt in his bid for a second victory in this race. Speaking of past winners, both 2005 and 2004 champions Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) and Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) will be competing in this edition. Both possess formidable sprint capabilities in uphill finishes, and will be aiming for the win on Sunday. Another rider who can sprint uphill is Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne). The inaugural ProTour winner took out both the Fleche Wallonne and Lige-Bastogne-Lige classics in 2006, and the Amstel Gold Race finish should suit him. World champion Paolo Bettini will be back in action for Quick.Step, having had a quiet couple of weeks riding in support of Tom Boonen and recovering from a broken rib. Finally, Saunier Duval's young talent Ricardo Ricc is on fire this season. The 23 year-old won two stages of Tirreno-Adriatico, both with uphill finishes, as well as a stage in the Settimana Coppi e Bartali and one in the Tour de San Luis. Look out for him on the Cauberg. The Amstel Gold Race is characterised by its sinuous journey through the hills of Limburg, in the southern part of the Netherlands. In 252.2km, the riders will tackle 31 climbs, finishing on the well known Cauberg in Valkenburg. The Cauberg is encountered twice more during the race, which is divided into three large loops. The Eyserbosweg (climb 28, km 231) and the Keutenberg (climb 30, km 239) are the other key climbs in the finale. Teams: Team CSC, Predictor-Lotto, Quick Step - Innergetic, Caisse d'Epargne, Euskaltel - Euskadi, Saunier Duval- Prodir, Ag2r Prevoyance, Bouygues Telecom, Cofidis, le Credit Par Telephone, Crdit Agricole, Franaise Des Jeux, Gerolsteiner, T-Mobile Team, Lampre-Fondital, Liquigas, Team Milram, Rabobank, Astana, Unibet.com, Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team, Chocolade Jacques - Topsport Vlaanderen, Team Wiesenhof - Felt, Skil - Shimano. Got a comment? Discuss this in the Procycling forum. What else is new? Check out the Procycling blog.

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