Philippe Gilbert’s stellar season continued Sunday as the Belgium champion won a two-man sprint to claim a fourth victory in the Amstel Gold Race.
The 34-year-old rider produced a strong final push to catch former winner Michal Kwiatkowski, who launched the sprint with about 300 meters left. Michael Albasini won the dash for third place.
“He surprised me a little in the sprint, but it was a headwind so I didn’t panic, and I saw I was getting closer and closer, and it was perfect for me in the end,” said Gilbert.
An early break from a group of a dozen riders highlighted the first hours of the race but the final battle shaped up with 40 kilometers to go when Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) attacked on the Kruisberg climb, with Gilbert in his wake. Benoot’s efforts were hampered by a mechanical problem and the young Belgian rider was dropped from the leading group.
After former winners Roman Kreuziger and Enrico Gasparotto saw their hopes of victory vanish in a crash, Kwiatkowski managed to join the leaders on the punishing Keutenberg climb with an impressive burst that left Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)behind.
With 19 kilometers to go, Kwiatkowski led the seven-man group as they tackled the third and final climb up the Cauberg hill with a 30-second lead over the main peloton. The tough final climb to the finish up the Cauberg — a 1.5 kilometer ascent at an average gradient of 5.8 percent — was moved up in this year’s route as organizers tried to create a more open race.
The seven breakaway riders worked well together and resisted the chasing peloton although Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) did not take turns at the front. Kwiatkowski tried a solo move in the Bemelerberg, the last of the 35 climbs in the race, about 5.5 kilometers from the finish, but Gilbert countered his attack. The duo stayed together all the way to the finish where Gilbert proved the stronger.
“It was a hard final,” Gilbert said. “All of us deserved the win today because we really worked together … In the end with Kwiato we went hard, I saw the guys behind were on the limit. I was too but if you can find one or two percent more, it makes the difference. I told him: ‘We ride until the last kilometer and the best man wins.’ That’s the best deal you can make.”
Amstel Gold Race 2017 results:
|1||Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors)||6:33:55|
|2||Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky)||,,|
|3||Michael Albasini (Orica-Scott)||+10”|
|4||Nathan Haas (Dimension Data)||,,|
|5||Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar)||,,|
|6||Sergio Henao (Team Sky)||,,|
|7||Ion Izagirre (Bahrain Merida)||+14”|
|8||Michael Gogl (Trek-Segafredo)||+1’10”|
|9||Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Merida)||+1’11’|
|10||Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb)||,,|