Amstel Gold Race

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Amstel Gold Race
Race details
DateMid to late April
RegionLimburg, Netherlands
English nameAmstel Gold Race
Nickname(s)The Amstel, Nederlands Mooiste
(Dutch Most Beautiful, en.) , AGR, The Gold Race
CompetitionUCI World Tour
TypeOne-day Classic
OrganiserAmstel Gold Race Foundation, Flanders Classics (from 2025)
Race directorLeo van Vliet
Web Edit this at Wikidata
First edition1966 (1966)
Editions58 (as of 2024)
First winner Jean Stablinski (FRA)
Most wins Jan Raas (NED) (5 wins)
Most recent Tom Pidcock (GBR)

The Amstel Gold Race is a one-day classic road cycling race held annually since 1966 in the province of Limburg, Netherlands. It traditionally marks the turning point of the spring classics, with the climbers and stage racers replacing the cobbled classics riders as the favourites.[1]

Since 1989 the event has been included in season-long competitions at the highest level of UCI, as part of the UCI Road World Cup (1989–2004), the UCI ProTour (2005–2010), UCI World Ranking (2009–2010) and since 2011 of the UCI World Tour. It is the only one-day World Tour race staged in the Netherlands and is considered the most important Dutch road cycling event.[1] Dutchman Jan Raas holds the winning record with five victories.

Dutch beer brewer Amstel has served as the race's title sponsor since its creation in 1966. The name does not directly refer to the river Amstel, which runs through and near the city of Amsterdam. It took place without interruption until the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since 2017, a Women's Amstel Gold Race is held, after a 14-year hiatus. The event is organised on the same day and on largely the same roads as the men's race and is part of the UCI Women's World Tour.[2][3]


The first race[edit]

The Amstel Gold Race was created by Dutch sports promoters Ton Vissers and Herman Krott, who ran a company called Inter Sport.[N 1][N 2] Their dream was to create a Dutch classic cycle race able to compete with the monument races of Flanders and Italy.[4] The first edition was announced to take place on 30 April 1966, the Netherlands' National Holiday. The plan was to start in Amsterdam, before branching out to the east of the country and finishing in Maastricht, in the southeast of the country, totalling 280 km.[N 3]

However, many problems emerged.[4] Krott and Vissers had neglected the many rivers along the route and miscalculated the zigzags needed to cross them, making the intended distance far longer than 280 km. New plans were made to start in Utrecht, then Rotterdam; and to stage an alternative finish in the small village of Meerssen in Limburg. Moreover, less than three weeks before the start, organizers realized they had not obtained permission to cross the Moerdijk Bridge, the only exit route out of Rotterdam. The route had to be redrawn again and the start was moved further south, to Breda. On top of all that, the Dutch militant hippy counterculture movement Provo had declared a state of anarchy in the Netherlands in 1966.[N 4] Authorities feared that a race organized on the royal family's celebration day would cause possible uprisings.

Jean Stablinski won the first Amstel Gold Race in 1966.

Four days before the anticipated date, Vissers and Krott called off their race and were staging a press conference, when the Dutch roads ministry in The Hague called to say that the race could be organized after all — provided it would never again be scheduled on Queen's Day.[4]

On Saturday 30 April 1966, the first Amstel Gold Race was raced from Breda to Meerssen, without serious incidents.[4] Three riders from the Ford-France team sprinted for victory. Dutchman Jan Hugens suffered a mechanical failure in the final meters and was beaten by Frenchman Jean Stablinski who won the inaugural edition.[4] At 302 km, it was the longest edition ever. There were 120 starters, of which only 30 finished. Despite its original intent, the Amstel Gold Race has never started in Amsterdam; nor in Rotterdam or Utrecht, three of The Netherlands' largest cities.[N 5]

Newsreel of the Amstel Gold Race 1969 with Eddy Merckx (in Dutch)

Search for identity[edit]

In 1967 the start location moved to Helmond, in front of sponsor Amstel's headquarters, and the distance was scaled back to 213 km. Arie den Hartog won the second edition, becoming the first Dutch winner. In 1968 the race took place on 21 September because of a calendar conflict; the only time the Amstel Gold Race was ever run in the autumn. Dutchman Harrie Steevens won the race over a distance of 254 km.

In 1969 the race returned to April. Guido Reybrouck won the fourth edition, the first in a series of Belgian wins. The race was affected by severe snow and hailstorms, forcing many riders to abandon due to hypothermia.[4]

A young race, the Amstel Gold Race struggled to find its place on the international calendar between the much older cobbled classics and the Ardennes classics and had problems attracting the best riders. For a couple of years, cycling great Eddy Merckx did not participate because organizers could not pay his starting fee. In 1973 race director Herman Krott agreed to pay a considerable sum to Merckx's team, provided that he would win the race. Merckx started and won the Amstel Gold Race more than three minutes ahead of the second-place finisher.[4] Two years later, he was the first rider to win a second time.

In the late 1970s Dutchman Jan Raas won the Amstel Gold Race a record five times, of which four were consecutive. Raas was able to rely on his strong sprint finish, but also took two solo victories. Dutch media started coining the phrase Amstel Gold Raas. In 1983 Australian Phil Anderson became the first non-European winner.[5]

Michael Boogerd was a regular podium finisher.

Move to Maastricht[edit]

In 1991 the finish of the Amstel Gold Race moved to Maastricht, Limburg's capital city, and in 1998 the start also moved there. The character of the race was more and more defined by the hilly area in the south of the province. Only two Dutch riders, Michael Boogerd and Erik Dekker, have won the race in the last two decades before Mathieu van der Poel's win in 2019. Both Boogerd and Dekker beat American Lance Armstrong in a two-man sprint in Maastricht, in 1999 and 2001 respectively.[6][7][8] The 2001 race only had 37 finishers of a 190-strong pack, the lowest number in modern times.[9] Boogerd shares the record of seven podium finishes with Jan Raas, having achieved one victory, four-second places, two third places and several other top-ten finishes.

Cauberg finish[edit]

From 2003 to 2016, the finish was shortly after the top of the Cauberg climb in Valkenburg. Kazakh rider Alexander Vinokourov won the first uphill-finish edition with an attack before the Cauberg.[10] In 2013 the finish was moved 1.8 km away from the top of the Cauberg, near the centre of Valkenburg, resulting in a mainly flat, straight finish.[11] In 2017 the race organisers moved the finish so that the final climb of the Cauberg came 19 km from the finish, hoping for a "more open" race.[12] The most successful rider in recent years has been classics specialist Philippe Gilbert. The Belgian won the race four times between2010 and 2017, basing his victories on late bursts of speed and power on the Cauberg.[13] Therefore, earned the nickname of ‘Mister Cauberg’ and ‘Amstel Gilbert Race’ came up. In 2015 Polish rider Michał Kwiatkowski became the first reigning world champion to win the race since Bernard Hinault in 1981.[14][15][16] Kwiatkowski won again seven years later, when he outsprinted Benoît Cosnefroy in the finish of the 2022 edition.[17]

Steffen Wesemann on his way up Eyserbosweg in 2006.


Although the Netherlands are known for their flat, wind-affected roads, the Amstel Gold Race takes place in the hilly southern region of Limburg. The route twists through the rolling Limburg countryside, often turning abruptly to climb as many hills (bergen) as possible.[1] The most notable climb is the Cauberg, which is covered up to three times, and has sometimes been in the last few kilometres of the race.[18] The Keutenberg and the Eyserbosweg are two other renowned climbs of the race.

Course changes[edit]

Start and finish locations
Years Start Finish
1966 Breda Meerssen
1967 Helmond Meerssen
1968 Helmond Elsloo
1969–1970 Helmond Meerssen
1971–1990 Heerlen Meerssen
1991–1997 Heerlen Maastricht
1998–2002 Maastricht Maastricht
2003–2012 Maastricht Valkenburg
2013- Maastricht Vilt/ Berg en Terblijt

Although the race is younger than many other cycling classics, the course changed considerably over the years. The race's inaugural edition started in Breda in North Brabant, but quickly moved closer to the hilly region. From 1971 to 1997 the start was in Heerlen. The race started since 1998 on the central market square in Maastricht's Inner City and returns there in 2024 after the starts at Vrijthof square between 2019 and 2023.

Since 2005 the race is run entirely within the boundaries of Dutch Limburg, except right after the Vaalserberg climb, there is a short passage through Gemmenich in Belgium. Past editions in the 90’s had covered significant parts of Liège in Belgium, addressing the Côte de Hallembaye, meant to include a larger selection of climbs.

From 1991 until 2002 the race ended in Maastricht as well. The finish was on the Maasboulevard, keeping the flat run-in to the finish. In 2000 sprint specialist Erik Zabel won the race, leading out the sprint of a 20-strong group.

From 2003 to 2012 the finish was at the top of the Cauberg climb, in the Valkenburg municipality, close to Maastricht. The finale was redesigned in 2013 and the finish was moved west, near the hamlets of Vilt and Berg en Terblijt, 1.8 kilometres from the top of the Cauberg. The altered finish mirrors the location that was used for the 2012 UCI Road World Championships in Valkenburg.[19] Since 2017 The last (4th) climb of the Cauberg was removed so that the Geulhemmerberg and Bemelerberg (7.4 km from the finish) are the last climbs now. It was done so that things would opened up more the character of the race.

Race characteristics[edit]

Ardennes Week[edit]

Although the race location in Limburg is not part of the Ardennes, neither geographically nor geologically, it is often considered the opening race of the Ardennes Week.[20] In 2004 the Amstel Gold Race has swapped places with Liège–Bastogne–Liège on the international calendar.[21] Ever since, the race is organised on the Sunday after the cobbled classic Paris–Roubaix and before the Ardennes classic Flèche Wallonne the next Wednesday.

View on Oud-Lemiers, near Vaals, in the southeast of Limburg.

Until 2002, the Amstel Gold Race had a more flat run-in to the finish and was sometimes won by riders excelling in the cobbled classics, notably the Tour of Flanders. In recent decades, organizers chose to shift the focus of the race some more to the hills and it changed the character of the race. The peloton is usually made up of the same riders starting in the Ardennes races. Classics riders with sufficient climbing abilities aswel as Grand Tour specialists.

The Dutch hills, in the very south of Limburg, are the Netherlands' only hilly region. The chalkloess relief was formed by the foothills of the neighbouring Ardennes and Eifel low mountain ranges. The hills define the character of the race: they are generally shorter and not as high as in the Ardennes, but come in much higher frequency than in Liège–Bastogne–Liège. The highest point of the region and the race is Vaalserberg at 322.7 m above sea level; the top of the Cauberg is at 133.7 m altitude.


”Mister CaubergPhilippe Gilbert riding up the hill in the finale of the 2012 UCI Road World Championships.

The present course features more than 30 short climbs which come in faster succession as the race progresses, meaning riders have little time to recover in between the hills. 25 climbs are covered in the last 165 kilometres of the race, with eight coming in the final 45 kilometres. The steepest are the Cauberg, Keutenberg and Eyserbosweg. Some ascents are as steep as 22% (Keutenberg), others are more gently sloped. In contrast to the cobbled bergs in the Tour of Flanders, the hills in Limburg are all asphalted.[22]

Attempting to explain the difficulty of the course Peter Easton recounts a mathematician's calculations:

...applying logic to overcome a sense of incomprehension is the key to understanding this race. And there is truth in numbers. Six of the climbs come in the first 92 kilometers — one every 15.2 kilometres. The remaining 25 come over the final 165 kilometres. That's one every 6.6 kilometres. Breaking it down further, the final hour of racing has eight climbs in 42 kilometres. Now we're down to one every 5.25 km. At 40 km/h, that's one every 7 ½ minutes. Not overly funny, and definitely all business.[23]

The hills in the 2015 Amstel Gold Race:[24]

Number Name Kilometer Location Length (in m) Average climb (%)
1 Slingerberg 9 Geulle 1200 5,4
2 Adsteeg 14 Beek 500 5,4
3 Lange Raarberg 22 Meerssen 1300 4,5
4 Bergseweg 38 Voerendaal 2700 3,3
5 Sibbergrubbe 50 Valkenburg 2100 4,1
6 Cauberg 54 Valkenburg 1200 5,8
7 Geulhemmerweg 59 Valkenburg 1000 6,2
8 Wolfsberg 78 Noorbeek 800 4,4
9 Loorberg 81 Slenaken 1500 5,5
10 Schweibergerweg 93 Gulpen 2900 3,9
11 Camerig 99 Vijlen 4300 3,8
12 Drielandenpunt 110 Vaals 3700 3,7
13 Gemmenich 114 Blieberg 900 6,4
14 Vijlenerbos 118 Vaals 1800 5,1
15 Eperheide 127 Epen 2300 4,1
16 Gulperberg 135 Gulpen 700 8,1
17 Plettenbergweg 142 Eys 1000 4,2
Number Name Kilometer Location Length (in m) Average climb (%)
18 Eyserweg 144 Eys 2200 4,3
19 Huls 148 Simpelveld 1000 7,7
20 Vrakelberg 154 Voerendaal 700 7,9
21 Sibbergrubbe 161 Valkenburg 2100 4,1
22 Cauberg 166 Valkenburg 1200 5,8
23 Geulhemmerweg 170 Valkenburg 1000 6,2
24 Bemelerberg 183 Bemelen 900 5,0
25 Loorberg 198 Slenaken 1500 5,5
26 Gulperberg 208 Gulpen 700 8,1
27 Kruisberg 217 Wahlwiller 800 7,5
28 Eyserbosweg 219 Eys 1100 8,1
29 Fromberg 222 Fromberg 1600 4,0
30 Keutenberg 227 Keutenberg 700 9,4
31 Cauberg 237 Valkenburg 1200 5,8
32 Geulhemmerweg 242 Valkenburg 1000 6,2
33 Bemelerberg 250 Bemelen 900 5,0
34 Cauberg 255 Valkenburg 1200 5,8

Nervous course[edit]

The race is the Netherlands' largest professional race but is frequently criticized for the danger of its course.[25] The route runs on narrow roads, through often densely-populated suburbs and villages. Due to its high population density and the high cost of land, many Dutch houses do not have garages and cars are left parked in the street. Much of the course is urban, with many traffic-calming devices such as speed bumps, pinches, bollards, ramps, chicanes, refuge islands and roundabouts, prompting Scotland's Robert Millar to call it the Tour of the Roundabouts.[26] Crashes are common in the race.[27][28][29]

Winners, men[edit]

Eddy Merckx, in the rainbow jersey, on the podium after winning the 1975 Amstel Gold Race.
Record winner Jan Raas (pictured after winning the world title in 1979 in Valkenburg) won the Amstel Gold Race five times.
Four-fold winner, ‘Monsieur Cauberg’ Philippe Gilbert
Year Country Rider Team
1966  France Jean Stablinski Ford–Hutchinson
1967  Netherlands Arie den Hartog Bic–Hutchinson
1968  Netherlands Harry Steevens Willem II–Gazelle
1969  Belgium Guido Reybrouck Faemino–Faema
1970  Belgium Georges Pintens Dr. Mann–Grundig
1971  Belgium Frans Verbeeck Watney–Avia
1972  Belgium Walter Planckaert Watney–Avia
1973  Belgium Eddy Merckx Molteni
1974  Netherlands Gerrie Knetemann Gan–Mercier–Hutchinson
1975  Belgium Eddy Merckx Molteni
1976  Belgium Freddy Maertens Flandria–Velda
1977  Netherlands Jan Raas Frisol–Gazelle–Thirion
1978  Netherlands Jan Raas TI–Raleigh–McGregor
1979  Netherlands Jan Raas TI–Raleigh–McGregor
1980  Netherlands Jan Raas TI–Raleigh–Creda
1981  France Bernard Hinault Renault–Elf–Gitane
1982  Netherlands Jan Raas TI–Raleigh–Campagnolo
1983  Australia Phil Anderson Peugeot–Shell–Michelin
1984  Netherlands Jacques Hanegraaf Kwantum–Decosol–Yoko
1985  Netherlands Gerrie Knetemann Skil–Sem–Kas–Miko
1986  Netherlands Steven Rooks PDM–Gin MG–Ultima–Concorde
1987  Netherlands Joop Zoetemelk Superconfex–Kwantum–Yoko–Colnago
1988  Netherlands Jelle Nijdam Superconfex–Yoko–Opel–Colnago
1989  Belgium Eric Van Lancker Panasonic–Isostar–Colnago–Agu
1990  Netherlands Adri van der Poel Weinmann–SMM Uster–Merckx
1991  Netherlands Frans Maassen Buckler–Colnago–Decca
1992  Germany Olaf Ludwig Panasonic–Sportlife
1993   Switzerland Rolf Järmann Ariostea
1994  Belgium Johan Museeuw GB–MG Maglificio–Bianchi
1995   Switzerland Mauro Gianetti Polti–Vaporetto
1996  Italy Stefano Zanini Gewiss Playbus
1997  Denmark Bjarne Riis Team Telekom
1998   Switzerland Rolf Järmann Casino–Ag2r
1999  Netherlands Michael Boogerd Rabobank
2000  Germany Erik Zabel Team Telekom
2001  Netherlands Erik Dekker Rabobank
2002  Italy Michele Bartoli Fassa Bortolo
2003  Kazakhstan Alexander Vinokourov Team Telekom
2004  Italy Davide Rebellin Gerolsteiner
2005  Italy Danilo Di Luca Liquigas–Bianchi
2006  Luxembourg Fränk Schleck Team CSC
2007  Germany Stefan Schumacher Gerolsteiner
2008  Italy Damiano Cunego Lampre
2009  Russia Serguei Ivanov Team Katusha
2010  Belgium Philippe Gilbert Omega Pharma–Lotto
2011  Belgium Philippe Gilbert Omega Pharma–Lotto
2012  Italy Enrico Gasparotto Astana
2013  Czech Republic Roman Kreuziger Saxo–Tinkoff
2014  Belgium Philippe Gilbert BMC Racing Team
2015  Poland Michał Kwiatkowski Etixx–Quick-Step
2016  Italy Enrico Gasparotto Wanty–Groupe Gobert
2017  Belgium Philippe Gilbert Quick-Step Floors
2018  Denmark Michael Valgren Astana
2019  Netherlands Mathieu van der Poel Corendon–Circus
2020 No race due to COVID-19 pandemic
2021  Belgium Wout van Aert Team Jumbo–Visma
2022  Poland Michał Kwiatkowski Ineos Grenadiers
2023  Slovenia Tadej Pogačar UAE Team Emirates
2024  Great Britain Tom Pidcock Ineos Grenadiers

Multiple winners[edit]

Riders in italics are still active.

Wins Rider Editions
5  Jan Raas (NED) 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1982
4  Philippe Gilbert (BEL) 2010, 2011, 2014, 2017
2  Eddy Merckx (BEL) 1973, 1975
 Gerrie Knetemann (NED) 1974, 1985
 Rolf Järmann (SUI) 1993, 1998
 Enrico Gasparotto (ITA) 2012, 2016
 Michał Kwiatkowski (POL) 2015, 2022

Wins per country[edit]

Wins Country
18  Netherlands
14  Belgium
7  Italy
3  Germany
2  Denmark
1  Australia
 Czech Republic
 Great Britain

Women's race[edit]

Anna van der Breggen won the women's reboot edition in 2017.

From 2001 to 2003, three editions of the Amstel Gold Race for elite women were held. In 2003, it was part of the UCI Women's Road World Cup.[30] The race started in Maastricht 30 minutes after the men's. It was run over 114 km, taking in nine climbs and similarly finishing on top of the Cauberg.[31] The race was discontinued after the third edition, because organization on the same day and on largely the same roads as the men's race was considered too difficult on the irregular circuits.[N 6]

After a 14-year hiatus, the women's race returned in 2017, organized on the same day as the men's race at approximately half the distance.[3] Likewise, the race starts in Maastricht and finishes in Vilt/ Berg en Terblijt, Valkenburg. It features 17 categorized climbs, including four ascents of the Cauberg.[32][33] Olympic road race champion Anna van der Breggen won the race with an attack at 8 km from the finish.[34]


Since 2001 there is a Cyclosportive Amstel Gold Race, organized annually on the day before the professional event. Cycling fanatics and recreational bike riders can ride trajectories of 60, 100, 125, 150, 200 or 240 km. Every distance finishes on the location of the professional race, immediately after the climb of the Cauberg.[35] The number of participants is restricted to 12,000, in order to secure riders' safety. In 2009 the official website crashed, because of a run on the tickets. In 2010 all 12,000 tickets were sold in just 38 minutes.


  1. ^ Vissers was a house decorator and field hockey player from Rotterdam whose break-in cycling came in 1963 when a friend asked him to manage a minor team in the Tour of the Netherlands. Those who were there say he was as hopeless as his riders. Officials banished him after he did a U-turn and drove back towards the oncoming race after hearing that one of his riders had punctured. Three years later, in 1966, he became manager of the Willem II professional team that at one time included the winner of the classic, Rik Van Looy.
  2. ^ Krott's background in cycling was barely deeper. He ran a car parts dealership called HeKro and, because he admired the Dutch rider Peter Post, worked as his personal assistant. He had also worked as a salesman for Amstel. Together, Krott and Vissers organized small races across the Netherlands. Krott also used his contacts at Amstel to start an Amstel professional team and then the sponsorship to run an international professional race bigger than the round-the-houses events Inter Sport had been promoting until then.
  3. ^ Prizemoney would be 10,000 guilders — about €5,000 – of which a fifth would go to the winner.
  4. ^ At the other end of the social scale, many Dutch people were also protesting against the marriage of the queen's daughter, Beatrix, to a German, Claus von Amsberg.
  5. ^ Inter Sport ceased trading in 1970 and Herman Krott directed the race by himself until 1995, when it was taken over by former professional cyclist Leo van Vliet.
  6. ^ The 2003 women's race almost clashed with the men's


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  5. ^ Archived 2017-11-07 at the Wayback Machine Video of 1983 Amstel Gold Race (In Dutch)
  6. ^ "34th Amstel Gold Race, World Cup round 5 Netherlands, April 24, 1999". CyclingNews. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
  7. ^ Video of 1999 Amstel Gold Race (In Dutch)
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  16. ^ Video of 1981 Amstel Gold Race (in Dutch)
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  19. ^ Finish Amstel Gold Race niet op Cauberg
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  31. ^ Jones, Jeff. "38th Amstel Gold Race – CDM. Nicole Cooke holds off charging peloton". CyclingNews. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
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  • ^ Graat, John (April 16, 2005). De Gold Race is allang geen 'poenkoers' meer. Trouw (newspaper), p. 21.

External links[edit]