Compared to most races on the WorldTour calendar – with names that tell you where the race is, where it starts from, or where it is going – Amstel Gold is a profound outlier. For as long as the race has been in existence its naming rights sponsorship has been courtesy of the Amstel Brewery, which in turn is named after the Amstel River (which runs through Amsterdam, nowhere near the province of Limburg where the race takes place).
Do they make good beer? They do not. From 822 ratings on beer nerd website RateBeer, Amstel’s flagship lager gets a weighted average score of 2.23 out of 5. (Sample reviews: “rather dusty and dull”, “all foam and blandness”, “not good to drink”). The full ‘Amstel Gold’ race name comes from the discontinued 7% imperial pilsner (2.53 out of 5; “papery, corny, with cardboard … pretty bad”); these days the race organisers tend to flip back and forth between promoting the lager and the Radler shandy (2.41 out of 5; “that was just a bad lemonade.”)
Beer-badness aside, Amstel’s sponsorship – funded by parent company Heineken’s deep pockets – is difficult to ignore. The standout moment of the podium presentation each year is when the race’s conquerers are handed a beer and peer-pressured to drink it.
This year, Slovenian prodigy Tadej Pogačar stormed to victory and downed the entire beer in a hurry – prompting a stunned chuckle from Ben Healy and a speedy surrender from Pidcock. Clearly, Pogačar doesn’t give less than 100% for anything (up to and including tepid Dutch lager):
Is Pogačar’s demolition of a glass of Amstel an outlier, though? Is there historic precedent for this? Can a look back through the photographic archives tell us anything of value about Amstel Gold – the race, the beer, the great promotion for an awful product?