Cycling: Mathieu van der Poel takes on the Amstel Gold Race, after his Flandrian double

He is insatiable. After crushing the Flandrian spring by slamming a double in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, Mathieu van der Poel tackles the Ardennes classics on Sunday, aiming for a prestigious double Amstel Gold Race/Liège-Bastogne-Liège with the man to beat label.

This will especially be the case this weekend in Dutch Limburg between Maastricht and Valkenburg (south), where the leader of the Alpecin-Deceuninck team will try to achieve a fourth success at home, in the only WorldTour race in the Netherlands. in a row after his demonstrations at the E3 GP, at the Tour of Flanders then on the Hell of the North last Sunday.

Tadej Pogacar, winner last year of the Amstel, absent

His task will be largely made easier by the absences of Tadej Pogacar, Remco Evenepoel and Wout van Aert. The Slovenian, winner of the Amstel last year, lightened his start to the season to better prepare for the Giro while the two Belgian champions are recovering from their heavy falls in recent weeks, like Primoz Roglic, also package for the Ardennes.

Van der Poel will therefore be the overwhelming favorite to win at home in the Netherlands. The 29-year-old rider, who claims “not to have looked at the list of starters”, feels so strong that he no longer cares about the competition, “concentrating only on himself” to win the Amstel, a a race that he had already gleaned in 2019 at the expense of a certain Julian Alaphilippe and which he notes as his “first prestigious victory on the road”.

Benoît Cosnefroy and Ben Healy in outsiders

To thwart him, the collective strength of the UAE team will not be too much. Even without Pogacar, she will look great with the quartet of Brandon McNulty, Joao Almeida, Marc Hirschi and Juan Ayuso. The Ineos-Grenadiers will field a double winner of the Amstel, the Pole Michal Kwiatkowski, and a potential winner, the Briton Tom Pidcock.

After his victory on Wednesday over the Flèche Brabançonne, the Frenchman Benoît Cosnefroy joined the group of outsiders. Second in 2022, painfully beaten in the photo finish by Kwiatkowski, the rider from the Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale team wants to believe “that it is possible to beat Van der Poel”.

The Australian Michael Matthews, the Dane Mattias Skjelmose, the Belgian Dylan Teuns and the revelation of the 2023 Ardennes campaign, the Irishman Ben Healy, 2nd a year ago in Valkenburg, perhaps have the same conviction.

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