The Amstel Gold Race is an exciting, one-day race held in Limburg, a hilly region of the Netherlands. The 2021 edition is Sunday, April 18 and will be held on a revised course to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions.
The race takes its name from the title sponsor: the Amstel beer brewery. The Amstel Gold Race has the prestige (it's part of the UCI World Tour) and the history, too, which makes watching worthwhile. Here are 10 reasons to tune in:
1. Consistent sponsor
Event sponsors come and go, but Amstel has stayed true to their commitment to bicycle racing, and have been the title sponsor since the founding of the event in 1966! Compare this to the E3 Saxo Bank Classic, which was the E3 BinckBank Classic previously, and before that E3 Harelbeke, and before that it was called the E3-Prijs Vlaanderen, and before that...
It's nice to have the same recognizable name, year in, year out. Who could argue with your race being sponsored by a Dutch beer? Unfortunately, the race seems to be rated higher than the actual beer itself, which actually gets fairly poor reviews by enthusiast beer critics.
2. The return of a cancelled event
Like many other races affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 edition of Amstel Gold was first postponed, before later being cancelled outright, due to concerns over the possible spread of Coronavirus.
We've now lost Paris-Roubaix for two consecutive seasons, among many other favorites, so it makes sense to cherish what we do have - like Amstel Gold moving forward despite challenges that forced changes.
3. Mathieu van der Poel won't be there
Watching Mathieu van der Poel race is exhilarating - he's a superstar! When he takes the start, he's a marked man, which changes the racing dynamic and strategies.
In 2019, he shocked the field and created one of the best bicycle race finishes ever captured on camera at the Amstel Gold:
For the 2021 edition of the Amstel Gold Race, "MvdP" won't be on the starting line - he's completed his Spring road campaign, and now turns his attention toward mountain bike racing, which opens the door to different riders. Van der Poel's next goal is the MTB XC gold medal at the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
4. Different riders have a chance to shine
The Amstel Gold race marks the annual transition from cobbles (Flanders, Paris-Roubaix) to hilly classics. This change in terrain plays to to the strengths of different types of riders.
The hard men who excel on cobblestones give way to a punchy rider like Julian Alaphilippe. He'll be a favorite for sure, but Tour de France overall contenders can shine here in the one-day race, as well (think Primož Roglič.) Previous winners also include Eddy Merckx - twice.
5. Lance Armstrong couldn't win it
Lance Armstrong, a dominant, generational talent, tried on multiple occasions to capture Amstel Gold, but never quite got there. He's previously mentioned the Amstel Gold Race as "the one that got away." Armstrong got close, losing in a two-up sprint, on two separate occasions - both times to a rider on the now defunct Rabobank team.
6. There's a women's race
Lots of progress has been made and most "Tier One" races now feature both Men's and Women's events, but not all of them. The Amstel Gold Race has featured a Women's event, on and off... back "on" since 2017.
One way to support more women's racing is simply tuning in to watch talents like Anna van der Breggen or Chantal van den Broek-Blaak. The viewership numbers matter to the sponsors, and the sponsors play a large role in whether such events remain viable.
7. The "cyclosportive" version allows amateurs to tackle the same course
In normal times, 10,000 amateurs can tackle in the Amstel Gold course the day before the pros, in a difficult, but casual recreational event. It's been postponed to later in 2021 due to the pandemic, but for a cycling fan, that's a future bucket-list event to be sure. As you watch the race fly down narrow roads, you can imagine yourself on the same pavement someday.
8. No spectators allowed
To get permission to move forward, the race had to adjust the finishing circuits and ban spectators. You aren't going in person, anyway - might as well tune in to the TV / live stream instead!
9. A chance to watch your favorite cyclocross riders
The Amstel Gold Race is a chance to watch some of your favorite cyclocross riders on the road instead of the dirt. You'll find 'cross riders Tom Pidcock, fresh off a mid-week victory; and 3x world champ Wout van Aert in the mix as well.
10. Amstel Gold streams in beautiful, high-definition coverage to the United States
The 2021 Amstel Gold race live streaming will be on the FloBikes subscription service. Americans can tune in, live, and watch with English commentary as the race unfolds. It wasn't always this way... we used to get our European race coverage in the fine print at the back of the Sports section in the daily newspaper (if we got it at all.)
With virtually every major bicycle race now streamed in real-time to connected TVs, mobile devices, laptop, and desktop computers, we're really in the "glory days" of race coverage. What a time to be a fan of bicycle racing!