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16-09-2021 | Wouter Fioole

Amstel Gold Race 2021: something for everyone

After more than 2 years, the time had finally come: the Amstel Gold Race sportive could be ridden again. A great day for cycling as it turned out: dry, not too much wind, beautiful hills, even some sun and a great atmosphere. This year for the first time I rode the longest route of the AGR of just under 240 kilometers. The advantage of this route is that I can review all six possible distances.

The benefits of corona

All routes start in Valkenburg and end at the top of the Cauberg. There is a pleasant atmosphere there in the morning. Both here at start/finish and all stops are set up as transfer locations. Of course because of the corona rules, but as far as I'm concerned it's here to stay because it works perfectly.

After a bit of flat riding, we soon get to ride up the Geulhemmerberg. Luckily, my legs feel good today! I pedal easily to the top while on the left and right I overtake people who wonder aloud what they are doing. We do get - at least for me - less known climbs like the Adsteeg, Lange Raarberg and the Biesenweg in front of our wheels. For today, I had planned to keep pedaling at a heart rate of 140 on the flat sections. A little harder uphill, but never in the red. This way I can also enjoy all the beauty that Limburg has to offer. This works out quite well! Little castle here, beautiful view there.

Cobble stones in Limburg?

A fantastic discovery for me was the northernmost point we reached: the Maasberg. This is apparently the only cobblestone climb in South Limburg. 600 meters of well laying cobblestones, a peak of 11% and for the rest doable. In a controlled manner I dance to the top and find my rhythm again after the top. At the junction, take the southern loop and you're on the route of the 150 km. All the mountains you can expect are now there. The climbs become longer and steeper and therefore more fun for me personally. The northern loop was really surprisingly nice, but the real Limburg cycling is really starting now. 

The feed stations are for me as said a real (hoped for permanent) improvement. It always flowed really through so you could grab stuff much easier. I think the organization should think about the locations. A large meadow or abandoned parking lot just does not breathe much atmosphere.

From the Loorberg you keep on riding up to the Gulpenerberg, a somewhat long false flat descending strip with beautiful views and high speeds. At the monument of Jean Nelissen we dive down the steep side of the Gulpenerberg. A dangerous descent because there are also many cyclists trying to rake and swab uphill.

The notorious Keutenberg

The route of the 200 kilometers now goes directly to the Eyserbosweg. I accept that speeding is not an option anymore and diesel to the top. The 150 and 240 km routes come via the Epenerbaan and the Kruisberg to the Eyserbosweg. To my own surprise, I manage to get up here quite easily. On top of Fromberg, the worries swell around me: "Poh... and now the Keut", "don't think I will get up there", "yeah, it's only 500 meters" ... "as long as I don't have to stop this year".

Almost from a standstill I turn onto the steepest part. In front of me there seem to be more people walking up than cycling up. So, slalomming around the runners, the dismounters, the cursers, the hikers and others who are pedaling up the steep part of the road, I diesel up using the smallest gear I have. At the top, the misery has turned into euphoria. First, via the fast descent into Valkenburg and enjoy for a while. In the distance you can hear the familiar voice of a cyclist calling out the names of the finishers. The finish line at the top of the Cauberg is visible. I also cross the line and I am very satisfied. What a great day on the bike! All in all it took me a little over 9 hours including the stops. Not bad for a 240 km ride with almost 3000m+.

The most beautiful route?

The key question: were first 90 kilometers really worth it? This loop makes it easy to offer six distances. This gives all riders a chance to participate in this event. For me, the 90 kilometers of the northern loop also definitely add fun and challenge. It is much more than a very long warm-up for the southern loop. The scenery, the villages and castles and birds are really worthwhile.

However, I would not recommend the 125 and 200 kilometer routes, in both cases I would choose the 150 kilometer. The southern loop is really more beautiful, more fun and more challenging. Actually, these distances should be exchanged for a shorter distance on the southern loop. Anyway, for me personally no dilemma. I'm going to register again on October 11 for the longest distance!

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