The 'middle' loop in the Amstel Gold Race race, the longest of the three loops, plus the one with the most (!) climbs, is the only one of the three to take you over Camerig and the renowned tri-border point in Vaals. In total this one is 109 km. On the way you can tick off: the Cauberg, the Wolfsberg, Loorberg, Schweiberg, Camerig, Drielandenpunt, Gemmenich, Vijlenerbos, Eperheide, Gulpenerberg, Kruisberg, Eijserweg, Sint Remigiusstraat (the Huls), Vrakelberg, Sibbergrubbe. As a final climb the Cauberg once again. Distance 110,7 km. Altimeters 1770 m
An elite group of brave souls turned up to face the cold, wind and rain that was predicted for our first social ride of the year. With nearly 2000 meters of climbing it was never going to be an easy day but the weather did its ultimate best to make it even harder.
We met up at the Shimano Experience Center in Valkenburg for coffee and a slice of pie while discussing the bikes we brought for the day. An even split between road bikes and our Rowtag gravel bike in somewhat of a road setup, with George's ultra distance touring setup of the Rowtag being the main talking point.
The route offered us no such things as easing into it. When the rain stopped for a moment we got on our bikes and two corners later we were at the foot of the Cauberg. If we were cold, it wasn't for long as the 1,5km Cauberg served us gradients up to 12% as a little appetiser to the day's route.
I guess it really is true that fortune favours the brave. We managed to stay dry and ride in between rainshowers all day. The only time there was a huge downpour we were having lunch, cosy and warm inside, and got back on our bikes just in time to spot the most insane rainbow.
Not long after disaster struck. A piece of road debris got into George's derailleur and ripped it clean of the bike. Despite being probably the most prepared guy I've ever seen, carrying spare derailleur hangers, there was no fixing it. That's when his ultra distance mindset set in. Within a couple of minutes he located the nearest shop where he could get what he need to convert the bike to a single speed so he could ride his bike back home.
We agreed on meeting up again at the experience center later in the day and continued our ride through the hills of Maastricht. If the steep uphills weren't enough to ruin the legs, the huge gale force headwind on the downhills sure was enough to break the spirit. How often have you had to push over 300w going downhill and not even be close to touching 30km/h?
Empty and hungry we arrived bike at the Shimano Experience Center to find George again. Bike fixed, already showered and enjoying a steaming hot cup of coffee. Impressive.
A mountain of pasta dissappeared while we were talking about the day, the course and how the pros would do riding the course later in the year.
By now we know how the AGR 2023 went. With a lot of similarities to our day on the course. Cold and wet and only a select group in the final. And at least in our minds we flew up the Cauberg just as smoothly as Pidcock and Pogajar did.
Want to join us on our next social? Get your gravel bikes ready because in May we're heading out for an outdoor adventure. Stay tuned!