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AThe annual Ardennes Trilogy opens this coming Sunday in Maastricht, Netherlands, with the Amstel Gold Race. A total of three classic races in the Dutch-Belgian hills will be held within one week. The ProTour race in South Limburg will be followed on Wednesday by the Fleche Wallonne (April 23) with its feared final climb on the „Muur van Hoy“ and the Classic Lüttiche-Bastogne-Lüttich on Sunday (April 27).
„The Amstel Gold Race is a race that Erik Zabel likes,“ said Gerry van Gerwen, the Dutch general manager of the German ProTour team. „We have to be very attentive over the entire challenging course, in order to position Erik well in the finale. So it is surely an advantage for us that Martin Velits knows the region so well, because he lives and trains there.“
MILRAM will have eight riders in the Amstel Gold Race. In addition to Erik Zabel, who won the race in 2000, and local Dutch rider Niki Terpstra, Directeur Sportif Jochen Hahn will count on the three German riders Christian Knees, Björn Schröder and Enrico Poitschke. Team MILRAM will be supported by Ukranian Andrey Grivko, Spanish former World Champion Igor Astarloa and the young Slovakian Martin Velits, who injured his hand in the Ronde van Vlaanderen.
The 43rd edition of the race starts on the marketplace of Maastricht and runs over 257 kilometers through the region on the Maas River with its famous finish on the Cauberg in Valkenburg. The defending champion is Stefan Schumacher of Team Gerolsteiner, who won the opening race of the Ardennes Trilogy last year.
TheMILRAM line-up: Andrey Grivko (UKR/Sinferopol), Christian Knees (GER/Euskirchen), Erik Zabel (GER/Unna), Martin Velits (SVK/Bratislava), Björn Schröder (GER/Berlin), Enrico Poitschke (GER/Gera), Igor Astarloa (ESP/Monte Carlo), Niki Terpstra (NED/Haarlem)
Directeur Sportif: Jochen Hahn (GER/Berlin)