Can Lars Boom open the Dutch door?
Now that Tom Boonen has won Paris-Roubaix, with panache, he will ride the Amstel Gold Race.
The 47th Amstel Gold Race, this Sunday, is the opener of the Ardennes Classics. The hellingen (steep hills) will be challenging, with 31 for the riders to tackle. The Cauberg is 1200 meters with an average gradient of 5.8%.
Many riders will be interested to take part because this year's UCI World Road Championship will be on much of the same roads including the Cauberg climb.
Boonen will be there to gain that experience and will be a worker for Sylvain Chavanel (2008 winner). Fillipo Pozzato is listed to compete and will have a fire to burn after his crash in Paris-Roubaix and his second place behind Boonen in Flanders.
But, both men and the rest will have to deal with two-time winner, Philippe Gilbert.
Hesjedal in second behind Gilbert in 2010
His real season will start, and if it's anything like last season... well it will be difficult for everyone. He brings an eager team with Adam Blythe and Greg Van Avermaet at the ready. There's no doubt that BMC will want to prove to everyone, and to themselves, that they can win. Other riders that will be chomping on the bit is Peter Sagan. Is he ready to win his first classic? I also favor, and I know the Dutch fans will too, Lars Boom (6th in Paris-Roubaix) to win it for the home country. A long time coming since Michael Boogerd last won it for the Orangemen in 2003. Then again, the Rabobank team will have Matti Breschel as another threat (3rd Gent-Wevelgem). Simon Gerrans (1st Milan SanRemo) will threaten to win it for GreenEDGE and could possibly become the second Aussie to do it since Phil Anderson in 1983.
My sites turn towards Canada's hope for a Dutch classic win, Ryder Hesjedal. He was second, behind Gilbert, in 2010. What am I really saying?... If Gilbert has an off day, a packed Garmin-Barracuda team could very much provide a winner.
The starting list.