This Spring Classics season we selected 7 locations along the routes of the legendary one day races to define their significance in cycling history.
Sometimes your biggest strength is also your biggest weakness. No one can deny the fame of the Cauberg, but for the organisers of the Amstel Gold Race the climb on which their race is centred has become a problem. When it’s not hosting a bike race, the Cauberg is an unassuming hill, 1200m long and with an average gradient of 5.8%.
It rises from the bars and cafes of Valkenburg, climbing through woodland, past the casino that hosted this year’s World Cyclo-cross Championships, and gradually flattens out in the village of Berg en Terblijt. The road is wide and well-surfaced. Beyond Berg it descends to Maastricht.
The challenge of the Cauberg lies in what has come before. In the Amstel Gold Race, as in the five World Road Race Championships that Valkenburg has hosted, the race route takes in many, many climbs before finishing on the Cauberg. Legs are truly softened up by the time the survivors reach that slow left-hand turn in the centre of town. Last year the race took in an eye-watering 35 climbs.
And yet the presence of the Cauberg as the finishing climb has resulted in negative racing, with the strongest riders (usually Philippe Gilbert) waiting until the last climb before launching their attack. It was all becoming a bit predictable, and while the athleticism of the puncheurs is always impressive, no one wants a finale that seems to unfold in slow motion.
So this year, as last year, the finish has moved. The Cauberg will be climbed three times with the last ascent coming 18km from the finish. The new finishing loop will include hills but more critically will be on narrow roads. Race Director Leo Van Vliet has said he hopes the updated parcours will put pressure on the favourites to fight for position and attack earlier.
In 2017 the race was certainly more entertaining, with explosive riding throughout the last 40km. And the winner? Philippe Gilbert, of course.
More episodes of Spring Classic scenes:
1. MILAN-SANREMO – Turning Point
2. GHENT-WEVELGEM – Zebras at the seaside
3. RONDE VAN VLAANDEREN – The Monument
4. PARIS ROUBAIX – Escape from Hell
5. FLECHE WALLONNE – Coal and Pasta