Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert surged clear on the final Cauberg climb to win his third Amstel Gold Race on Sunday.
The 31-year-old — the winner in 2010 and 2011 — made his move inside the final 4km following a dummy attack by BMC teammate Samuel Sanchez and by the top of the climb, 1.8km from the finish, he was well clear.
Belgium’s Jelle Vanendert escaped from a group of chasers to take second, five seconds back, while Australia’s Simon Gerrans out-sprinted Spain’s Alejandro Valverde and Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski for third a further second behind.
Gilbert’s attack on the final climb was reminiscent of the same move he made to win the 2012 world title in Valkenburg, Netherlands.
He had showed his form in the lead-up to the race by winning the Brabantse Pijl on Wednesday last week and when he kicked for home, no one could live with him.
“It’s always important to win, first and foremost I’m a winner and that’s why I like to win,” Gilbert said. “[Winning] gives the team confidence. It was very important to win on Wednesday, it’s a semi-Classic too and one of the best races on the calendar. I was delighted to win, it gave me confidence and put me in the ideal situation for today.”
The main breakaway of the day saw 10 riders go clear inside the first 10km with the final two in that group, Frenchman Christophe Riblon and Belgian Preben van Hecke, staying out in front until the final 10km.
By that time an ambitious attack from France’s Thomas Voekler 40km out had seen a dangerous group form that included Greg van Avermaets, Jakob Fuglsang and Zdenek Stybar.
That forced the Movistar team of Valverde to take responsibility for the peloton’s chase until Stybar dropped out of the group up the road and his Omega Pharma-Quick Step team chipped in.
BMC’s Van Avermaet kicked on inside the final 15km and took Fuglsang with him, catching the remaining two escapees inside the final 10km, but their lead over the peloton lasted only a couple more kilometers before Gerrans’ Orica-GreenEdge team took over the pace setting.
The rhythm was furious leading up to the final ascent of the Cauberg. Spaniard Sanchez was first to attack, but it was little more than a ruse, forcing Kwiatkowski, Valverde and Gerrans to follow, before Gilbert made his move on the other side of the road as Sanchez faded.
“I was well led up to the start of the Cauberg by Marcus Burghardt, who did well and put me in a good position,” Gilbert said. “We had planned on Sanchez attacking at the foot of the climb, so I wasn’t surprised, but the competition was a bit more. They had to react, I waited for the moment I thought was the best and that was when it hurts the most. So I waited for it to really hurt to accelerate.”