Gilbert Wins Amstel Gold Race for Third Time
Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team) has won the Amstel Gold Race for the third time. The Belgian vaulted away from the peloton on the final ascent of the Cauberg to win the rugged, 251-km ride from Maastricht to Valkenburg in 6:25:57. Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol) finished second at 0:05, and Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge) took a three-up sprint for third at 0:06.
The riders set out from Maastricht under sunny skies. At the gun, Pim Ligthart (Lotto-Belisol) bolted away from the peloton, and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Matej Mohoric (Cannondale Pro Cycling Team), Manuel Belletti (Androni-Venezuela), Pirmin Lang (IAM Cycling), James Van Landschoot (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), and Nicola Boem (Bardiani-CSF) joined him. Christophe Riblon (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Rory Sutherland (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank) bridged up to the move, and the 10 escapees led the field by 15 minutes on the first ascent of the Cauberg.
BMC started chasing, and Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Katusha joined the Swiss squad at the front. Eventually, Movistar joined the pursuit as well. The bunch cut the break’s lead to eight minutes going over the Vrakelberg.
At about 100 km, Katusha captain Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Andy Schleck (Trek) crashed. Both abandoned.
Attrition took its toll, and with 35 km left, Boem, Van Hecke, and Riblon were what remained of the break. Boem was dropped. Behind, on the Kruisberg, Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) attempted to bridge up to the break. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Pieter Weening (GreenEdge), and Tim Wellens (Lotto-Belisol) followed. Paul Martens (Belkin-Linksys) and Bjorn Leukemans (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) joined the move as well. The escape never gained more than 0:20 on the peloton.
When Van Hecke and Riblon breasted the Cauberg for the penultimate time, they led the chase group by 2:00 and the peloton by 2:20. A flurry of attacks took place in the peloton. Ahead, Weening attacked the chase group. Fuglsang joined the Dutchman, which led to Van Avermaet, Leukemans, Alexander Kolobnev, and Martens catching the two. The bunch reeled in everyone except Fuglsang and Van Avermaet, who trailed Van Hecke and Riblon by 0:30 with 15 km left. Fuglsang and Van Avermaet joined forces with Van Hecke and Riblon on the Bemelerberg, but the peloton was only 0:10 behind the quartet. With seven km to go, the catch was made.
Team GreenEdge led the field to the base of the Cauberg. At the base of the climb, Samuel Sanchez (BMC) attacked. Orica-GreenEdge led the chase that reeled in the Spaniard, but Gilbert countered with three km remaining. No one could get to grips with the BMC man, who had time to celebrate as he coasted across the finish line.
The race went according to plan for BMC. "My teammates really did a great job before the final ascension of the Cauberg," Gilbert said. "They all did a very good job to place me in the best position. During the briefing, it was planned for Samuel to do an attack at the foot of the Cauberg. It was not a surprise for me, but I think it was one for my adversaries. I only had to wait for the best moment to attack. And I did that when it was most difficult and hurting for everyone."
Today’s race was the first of the Ardennes classics, which Gilbert swept in 2011. He will see much of the same competition on Wednesday at La Fleche Wallonne. Will the Belgian make it two in a row? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!