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In the mid-sixties, the Netherlands had around 20 professional galleries, as well as the Ronde van Limburg and Zuid-Holland, but none of them had the look of a classic. Likkebaardend watched cycling enthusiasts and organizers to Flanders where a big race was held every week. Herman Krott, the discoverer of Peter Post and Gerrie Knetemann and chef d'equipe of the Amstel cycling team, was one of those people. He wanted to organize a big city-to-city competition, a cycling race with allure that should eventually become a classic.
A sponsor had quickly found the Amsterdammer and also an appealing route: Amsterdam-Maastricht, but a race of 350 kilometers was too much of a good thing. Also the idea to cycle from Amsterdam to Rotterdam was shot, because the police did not allow the platoon to drive over the Moerdijk bridge. In the end, the first edition - on Queen's Day 1966 - decided to drive from Breda to Meerssen, a village in the Limburg hills.
At that first Amstel Gold Race, which received the predicate 'classic hors category' in 1991, a lot went wrong. Just before the start, the national police came to tell you that there were various diversions in the course because of the village squares closed by Queen's parties. The race was about forty kilometers longer. Five-time Tour winner Jacques Anquetil did not care about that. He finally closed his brakes well before the finish and got off: his contract stated that he had to drive 260 kilometers, not 302. Another favorite, the Frenchman Jean Stablinski, won the first episode.
Already in 1973 the most legendary Amstel Gold Race was held. Immediately after leaving the new starting place Heerlen, the peloton was plagued by strong winds, rain, snow and hail. The temperature was around freezing and it was actually irresponsible to cycle, but no one dared to take the decision to cancel the race. Even winner Eddy Merckx, who as usual was driven away from the rest without demolishing, was barely ahead because of the cold. His manager could keep track of him at the latest. Merckx begged for food, but just before the finish, only hot tea was available. The Cannibal did not drink, but poured it in his shoes, over his ice-cold feet.
From the end of the seventies, the Dutch ruled their own country for a decade. Of the twelve competitions between 1977 and 1988 ten times a countryman, triumphed by victories from Phil Anderson and Bernard Hinault. During the victory of the Frenchman in 1981, the peloton saw no hand in the dense fog almost all day long. Hinault went for a second time in the last hundred meters in a unique but beautiful mass sprint in South Limburg.
That year no Dutch ended with the first three, a rarity in those years. In 1977, even the entire stage was red-white-blue with Hennie Kuiper, Gerrie Knetemann and winner Jan Raas. It was the first victory of the Zeeuw that would win five in six years. The price was therefore even called the Amstel Gold Raas for a while. Incidentally, the victory in 1978 was a bit of a breath. Clearly visible to all television viewers, the escaped Jan Raas drove a long time in the slipstream of the engine of AVRO's Sportpanorama. Rightly the number two Francesco Moser was furious. "I will never come here again," he shouted.
For more than twenty years, foreigners have been in charge of the Limburg hills with victories by Michael Boogerd (1999) and Erik Dekker (2001) as exceptions. Both defeated Lance Armstrong, who was later removed from the results, in a sprint-a-deux.
Since the last Dutch victory it is fortunately possible for amateurs and enthusiasts to cycle the classic one day before the pros. To feel the special character of the Amstel Gold Race: endless running and turning, uphill, downhill, over the narrow roads in Limburg. To find out how in 700 meters all the juice from the legs is pressed on the Keutenberg, which with a maximum of 22% increase is called the steepest mountain in the Netherlands. Also the Cauberg is not for the cat, because the final climb of the course is almost one and a half kilometers long, but the real calf biter is the Eyserbosweg that the first six hundred meters from the picturesque Eys still cozy, but when turning the forest suddenly a nod knows more than 18%. "I do not know another climb that is so debilitating," said Michael Boogerd. But that comment from Dutch most successful rider of the last years does not deter the real enthusiast: the 12000 available starting places (60, 100, 125, 150, 200 or 250 km) are nowadays via the website of the organization in just over half a day hours sold out. Logical, because the only Dutch classic, who must have ridden a bit rider?