Without a doubt, the Amstel Gold Race tour version is the most popular cycling event in the Netherlands. Every year around 15,000 recreational cyclists participate, and it is usually booked out months in advance. The touring version is held every year on a Saturday in April, one day ahead of pro peloton’s Spring Classic race. Registrations usually open six months earlier (around October) and it is a matter of first come, first serve. But if you’re one of the lucky ones, you can look forward to a wonderful cycling event. But beforehand, you have to start training!
Amstel Gold Race courses.
The Amstel Gold Race tour version offers no less than 6 courses. This is actually quite unique, but also a way to spread the many participants over the hilly landscape and narrow roads of the South Limburg area. All routes start and finish in Valkenburg. The starting location is the Amstel Gold Race Experience. This also houses the brand new Shimano Experience Center that can be visited all year round. Showers and changing facilities are offered there, you can rent road bikes, plan routes or just enjoy a cup of coffee with a slice of apple pie.
The finish is not right at the top of the Cauberg, but some 2 kilometers down the road. So save just a little bit of energy for after the climb, because if you are dropped on that final climb, there is a short, flat stretch that allows you to claw back to your mates! The entourage such as the finishing arch and the finish line for the pros are already set up when you pass the finish line and only add to the experience.
All routes wind through Limburg and the Voer region of Belgium. The routes are slightly different than with the pros, but the climbs are largely the same. Of course, the number of altimeters also varies, depending on the distance. The 65-kilometer route has 780 vertical meters, while the longest distance of 240 kilometers has 2960 meters.
Top 5 favorite climbs
- All AGR courses include the most famous hill of Limburg: the Cauberg. Nowadays there are perhaps 50 categorized climbs to be found in Limburg. Which are the climbs that shouldn’t be missed apart from the Cauberg?
- In second place, we put the longest climb of Limburg, the Camerig. It is not the steepest but it is the longest with even hairpin bends near the top that almost give you an Alpine feeling!
- The steepest climb in Limburg: the Keutenberg. A farm road through no man’s land that only seems to get steeper.
- The Eyserbosweg. This used to be the hangman of the old final part of the Amstel Gold Race and therefore the climb with the most history. Steep, long, tough and with the steepest bits near the end are the characteristics of this climb.
- The Loorberg. From Slenaken this is a very nice gradual and smooth climb, for a change on a wide road, which should definitely not be missing from this list.
How much should you train for the AGR?
This is perhaps the most difficult question to answer. It depends primarily on your choice of course distance and of course on your starting point in terms of fitness. In addition, you should not underestimate the climbs. Every single one of them is not that long, but they come in quick succession and those efforts start to add up at some point. This requires a lot of muscle strength and also a good recovery ability.
Nevertheless, a general advice would be that for the 65 kilometers and 100 kilometers you should have trained an average of at least 4 hours per week for at least 3 months and even that is no guarantee for success. If you can ride those training sessions at an average speed of at least 27 to 28 kilometers per hour, then you should have enough strength to handle the additional efforts required for the climbing in Limburg.
For longer distances you will have to be able to cycle these kinds of speeds on your own over 5 hours without any problems and you will also have to train for at least 6 to 8 hours for at least 3 months.
How should I train?
The most important element you should work on is your endurance. That means that 80% of the training sessions should be in the D1/D2 heart rate zone or the endurance/pace power zone. You will need to clock up the kilometers to cover the distance and you should also make your longest endurance ride a little longer every week, so that you can easily pedal away on your own for 4 to 5 hours.
In addition, the most important element to add for the Limburg hills is strength training, as you will regularly find yourself grinding up climbs like the Keutenberg or Kruisberg at a low cadence. For this it is advisable to regularly include strength training on your bike. In the JOIN app we have a separate category with training sessions to work on this. If you use JOIN as your training app, you will of course get these sessions scheduled automatically and you don’t have to think about anything.
Race day strategy
Because of the steepness and sometimes quick succession of the climbs, the trick is not to be tempted to go full gas on the flat stretches. You should really try to take it easy and stay in D1 or the endurance power zone to allow yourself some recovery after another steep hill. Focus on your nutrition and don’t overextend yourself in an attempt to hang on to a fast group and cycle more intensively or even at the threshold point. For the climbs, on anything below 6% where you can still control your breathing and keep a handle on the effort, you want to make sure that you stay below the threshold heart rate or power. For anything steeper than 6%, this is not feasible for most mortals and it becomes a matter of power and grid to get to the top of the climb. Hence the importance of using the flatter stretches to eat, drink and recover ahead of the next steep hill.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
What should I eat and drink during the Amstel Gold Race tour version?
Try to consume between 60 and 90 grams of carbohydrates every hour. This is the maximum intake capacity per hour for most people. Eat and drink regularly, instead of not having anything for one hour and then try to compensate for this at the next care post by stuffing yourself. Try to eat bars, gels or other sports nutrition regularly, one trick is to cut energy bars in half to make it easier to eat little bits but more often.
The same is true for fluid intake. Depending on the heat, try to drink 350 to 600 ml with preferably 20 to 30 grams of dissolved carbohydrates. You absorb this faster than just water and thereby helps you to reach those 60 to 90 grams of carbohydrates intake per hour.
Finally, HAVE FUN!! Don’t forget to enjoy the natural beauty of Limburg during the Amstel Gold Race Tour version and of course JOIN is ready to help you prepare yourself optimally for your next cycling adventure.