UAE Team Emirates, led by in-form Portuguese rider Rui Costa, is heading to the first of the season’s three Ardennes Classics – the Amstel Gold Race – this Sunday, with hopes of a podium place firmly in mind.
Costa, who earlier this season won the overall General Classification title at his team’s home race – the Abu Dhabi Tour – is aiming to improve on his previous best at the Amstel Gold Race.
That was a fourth place finish in 2015 and this year, Costa is hoping to break into the top-three.
“My participation on Sunday will mark the eighth time for me back at the Amstel Gold Race,” he said. “This is a race I like and look forward to. I know that it’s going to be super tough and even though I’ve got good form, I know that I’ll have to have a really good day.
“You need to manage the way you expend your energy and effort in order to prepare yourself to arrive at the hills in the best position and form.
“I was fourth in 2015, so I know I can contend in this race and I could aim for a breakaway win.
“The last passage on the Cauberg used to be the most important part of the race, however this year the course has been changed and the last climb will be Bemelerberg cresting at 7.3 kilometres making it a bit more suited for fast riders like Ben swift and Diego Ulissi who now have more of a chance than in the past.”
Taking place in the south of the Netherlands, in the region of Maastricht, the Amstel Gold Race is a unique race which sees the riders faced with a multitude of mostly short, but often brutally steep, climbs.
The 52nd edition of the race will be the 16th stop on the UCI World Tour this year, and will feature 259.7 kilometers of narrow roads, dozens of hills and relentless twists and turns.
The 2017 route takes in 35 hills, yet unlike in previous editions, the hard-hitting Cauberg is no longer the final climb, making the Dutch race even more uncertain than usual.
Joining former World Champion Costa in the hunt for glory on Sunday will be his UAE Team Emirates team-mate, British sprint sensation Ben Swift who believes that the unusual course this year could play to his advantage.
“The new final part of the course presents an opportunity for me and for other riders with similar strengths, and so Amstel Gold Race could be a new and interesting challenge for me,” said Swift. “It is always very difficult to predict how this race will pan out and a challenge to be amongst the front group in the final portion of the race.”
Riding alongside Rui Costa and Ben Swift at the Amstel Gold Race, the UAE Team Emirates line-up is completed by Diego Ulissi, Matteo Bono, Marco Marcato, Matej Mohoric, Manuele Mori and Simone Petilli.