Gilbert keeps his promise on the Cauberg

Belgian gets Omega Pharma-Lotto's first win in style

Philippe Gilbert brought Omega Pharma-Lotto's eight month dry spell of victories to a dramatic end at the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday afternoon. The Belgian put in a ferocious attack on the final ascent of the Cauberg to claim victory several bike lengths clear of Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transtions), who sprinted past Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) in the closing meters of the race.

"I started as a favourite, so it's just beautiful to be able to win it and live up to the expectations," said Gilbert, who has been living inside a pressure cooker of Belgian expectation throughout the Classics season so far.

"From Milano-Sanremo on my form constantly improved. During the winter I said these are my races. I wanted to be good in Flanders but especially this week. I'm on schedule, right on time. It's not easy [to get it right]," he continued.

Gilbert's race winning move came moments after a 30-strong peloton had swallowed up Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) at the base of the event's famed uphill finish. Gilbert and Kolobnev had formed part of a five man attack group, which had formed after the Keutenberg with less than 11 kilometres remaining.

Kolobnev's ill-fated move had come with seven kilometres to go, before the chase groups reformed into one and dashed Katusha's hopes of back-to-back victories at the race.

For the victor however, the relief was palpable as he embraced each of his teammates in turn. The most emotional reaction came from Omega Pharma-Lotto manager, Marc Sargeant, who couldn't wipe the grin off his face as he hugged Gilbert firmly before the podium presentation at the top of the Cauberg.

Although two seconds shy of Gilbert at the finish, second placed Ryder Hesjedal was elated after securing the best Classics result of his career. “I couldn’t be more pleased. It’s insane,” he told Cyclingnews as he rode to the post-race press conference.

“This means a lot. I started to see myself as a rider for these races a few years ago and I’ve got nothing but the utmost respect for these events. This is my fifth Amstel and it was one of the first races in did in 2004. I remember coming off the back after 180 kilometres and couldn’t fathom how you get to the finish - now I realise how,” he said.

Hesjedal and Gilbert are likely to lock horns at least once more in the next week. While the 2010 Amstel Champion downplayed his expections for Flèche Wallone this Wednesday, Liège-Bastogne-Liège has been circled for Ardennes Classic number two.

"Liège is a dream for me," said Gilbert. "This victory will boost my moral. Flèche is not a race for me. It's a nice race, but the finish is a bit too long and too steep for me."

A tale of volcanoes and the journey to Valkenberg

The 45th edition of the Amstel Gold Race will be remembered for the influence of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano that had caused teams such enormous logistical problems in the days leading up to the race.

With no air travel possible in North and Western Europe, several big name favourites opted to skip the biggest Dutch one-day race, including Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne), Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam) and Bradley Wiggins (Sky). Last year's winner Serguei Ivanov (Katusha) and a dozen other riders had spent long hours in cars and trains to get in Maastricht.

Peter Wrolich (Milram) drove from Austria, but still had plenty of energy for the race as he featured in the early breakaway of seven men that formed almost immediately after the start. Rafael Valls (Footon-Servetto), Staf Scheirlinckx (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Sebastien Delfosse (Landbouwkrediet), Thierry Hupond (Skil-Shimano), Steven Van Vooren (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Arnaud van Groen (Vacansoleil) were Wrolich's six companions. The seven quickly built up a gap of almost seven minutes, with Lars Boom (Rabobank) doing most of the work in the peloton to help keep them under control.

By the time the leaders hit the Cauberg for the second time, after 181km, Valls Ferri had dropped away and the gap was down to four and a half minutes, to a group of three chasers: Albert Timmer (Skil-Shimano), Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Dirk Bellemakers (Landbouwkrediet) that had formed in the interim.

A relaxed peloton was a further 30 seconds behind with Rabobank still riding tempo on the front. Seventeen kilometres later last year's winner of the Herman Krott trophy for the most aggressive rider, Niki Terpstra (Milram), launched a solo counter-attack on the Bemelerberg. The Dutch rider pulled off a chasse-patate [a European cycling team for a rider with little chance of bridging]. He rode alone in between the leader's group and the peloton for a while but was quickly caught by the bunch, with the only result being that he used a lot of energy.

The true race begins

Approaching the deciding climbs with fifty kilometres to go, the six leaders had 2:46 on the three chasers and three minutes on the peloton. Despite riding for 200 kilometres, the race had yet to begin in earnest and while the earlier climbs had begun to create a selection, most of the favourites retained their positions in the main group.

The difference in speed between the tired leaders and the peloton was now evident and with thirty kilometres to go the breakaway was neutralized and the finale of the race could get underway.

Saxo Bank took the initiative and hammered away at the front the peloton in the approach to climb number 26, the Gulperberg. There were no attacks in front, but the high speed caused many casualties, among them was co-favourite Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Katusha), who was spotted struggling at the back.

"Saxo Bank took the race in their hand rather early on," said Gilbert afterwards of the impetus inserted into the race by the Danish squad. "They tried to make the race harder. The [Schleck] brothers were as strong as expected, just like Ivanov. It wasn't obvious to know what to do."

Steaming towards the famous quartet of climbs (the Kruisberg, Eyserbosweg, Fromberg and Keutenberg) it was world champion Cadel Evans who was led the peloton into the short but steep series of ascents.

Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil) launched the first serious attack on the Kruisberg, with twenty-two kilometers to go, and he created a nice gap, although his body language indicated that he had hoped to receive some support in his endeavour.

On the steep climb of the Eyserbosweg the first big gun fired when Andy Schleck attacked and bridged up to Marcato. The move from the Luxemburg champion was quickly marked by Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Fränk Schleck and Johnny Hoogerland (Vancansoleil). Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas), Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) and Alexandr Kolobnev (Saxo Bank) bridged up little later.

The group established itself a small gap over the peloton and on the Fromberg it was Fränk Schleck's turn to attack. Cunego countered and only Gilbert, Fränk Schleck and Kolobnev were able to keep up with the surge.

Despite those salvos the race again came back together after the Fromberg. On the section in between the Fromberg and the Keutenberg, Ivanov snuck away together with Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto). On the climb itself, Ivanov went solo.

Gilbert and Cadel Evans were the first to respond to the attack, the duo bridging to the Russian Champion. A second attack from Ivanov detached them once more as Gilbert and Evans assumed positions in the first and second chase groups, respectively.

Gilbert again went in search of Ivanov. This time, he caught and passed his prey as the hunter quickly became the hunted. Behind, Cunego, Kolobnev, Fränk Schleck and now Ivanov represented the first chase group.

However, Gilbert was dragged back into the selection, precipitating an immediate attack from Kolobnev. The Russian scooted away to a ten second lead over the now his pursuers, with an increasingly tenuous gap to a second chase group at 20 seconds.

With five kilometres to go, Kolobnev began to show the strain of his effort as the two chase groups reformed into one behind him. Nibali led the charge of the now 30-strong peloton, with Rabobank taking over as they charged towards the base of the final climb.

As the Cauberg reared, Kolobnev's day was done as the chasers streamed past him on the lower slopes of the famed ascent. Despite the frantic movement of the group, a moment of peace ensued, before Gilbert fired out of the right-hand-side of the group. The Omega Pharma captain put his head down and it wasn't until he passed beneath the bridge that crosses the course at 300 metres-to-go that he risked a look behind.

He liked what he saw. A fist pump told the story as he relaxed from his enormous effort 100 metres before the line. His arms rose to the sky as he was the first to bath in the warm afternoon sun that greeted the riders at the summit. Behind, Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) put in a final effort to overcome Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) for second place.

Full Results
1Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto6:22:54 
2Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Transitions0:00:02 
3Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana  
4Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet0:00:05 
5Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-Doimo  
6Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini  
7Frank Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank0:00:07 
8Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team0:00:09 
9Karsten Kroon (Ned) BMC Racing Team0:00:11 
10Chris Horner (USA) Team Radioshack  
11Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank  
12Sergie Ivanov (Rus) Team Katusha  
13Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team  
14Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank0:00:17 
15Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Team Katusha  
16Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step0:00:19 
17Haimar Zubeldia Aguirre (Spa) Team RadioShack0:00:21 
18Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank0:00:25 
19Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Quick Step0:00:37 
20Jurgen Vandenbroeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto0:00:46 
21Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo0:00:56 
22Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Team Katusha0:01:11 
23Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank0:01:38 
24Bjorn Leukemans (Bel) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team0:02:02 
25Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Team Milram  
26Nick Nuyens (Bel) Rabobank0:02:07 
27Xavier Florencio Cabre (Spa) Cervelo Test Team0:02:11 
28Benoit Vaugrenard (Fra) Française Des Jeux0:02:18 
29Bram Tankink (Ned) Rabobank0:02:25 
30Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi  
31Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini0:02:29 
32Fabio Felline (Ita) Footon-Servetto0:02:34 
33Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale0:02:36 
34Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini0:02:56 
35Johan Coenen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator0:03:19 
36Simon Geschke (Ger) Skil - Shimano  
37Bert Scheirlinckx (Bel) Landbouwkrediet  
38Jerome Baugnies (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator  
39Roy Sentjens (Bel) Team Milram  
40Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana  
41Michel Kreder (Ned) Garmin - Transitions  
42Michael Albasini (Swi) Team HTC - Columbia  
43Juan Jose Oroz Ugalde (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi  
44Geert Verheyen (Bel) Landbouwkrediet  
45Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor) Sky Professional Cycling Team  
46Inaki Isasi Flores (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi  
47Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana  
48Rob Ruygh (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team  
49David Loosli (Swi) Lampre-Farnese Vini0:03:26 
50Dmitriy Fofonov (Kaz) Astana0:03:28 
51Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi  
52Kjell Carlstrom (Fin) Sky Professional Cycling Team  
53Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank  
54Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team  
55Maxime Montfort (Bel) Team HTC - Columbia  
56Peter Velits (Svk) Team HTC - Columbia0:03:32 
57Aitor Perez Arrieta (Spa) Footon-Servetto  
58Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Team Katusha0:03:38 
59Daniele Pietropolli (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini  
60Jussi Veikkanen (Fin) Française Des Jeux  
61Johannes Frohlinger (Ger) Team Milram  
62Nicki Sorensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank  
63Ivan Rovny (Rus) Team Radioshack  
64Simon Gerrans (Aus) Sky Professional Cycling Team  
65Sandy Casar (Fra) Française Des Jeux  
66Biel Kadri (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
67Christian Knees (Ger) Team Milram  
68Anthony Roux (Fra) Française Des Jeux0:03:45 
69Ivan Velasco Murillo (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi0:03:52 
70Matteo Bono (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini  
71Marco Pinotti (Ita) Team HTC - Columbia0:03:59 
72Matteo Carrara (Ita) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team  
73Christophe Brandt (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto0:04:02 
74Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
75Albert Timmer (Ned) Skil - Shimano0:08:59 
76Christopher Froome (Ken) Sky Professional Cycling Team0:10:20 
77Marcel Wyss (Swi) Cervelo Test Team0:10:31 
78Bart Dockx (Bel) Landbouwkrediet  
79Jacob Fuglsang (Den) Team Saxo Bank  
80Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Team Katusha  
81Imanol Erviti (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne  
82Sergey Lagutin (Uzb) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team  
83Mathew Hayman (Aus) Sky Professional Cycling Team  
84Steven Van Vooren (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator  
85Kristjan Koren (Slo) Liquigas-Doimo  
86Roy Curvers (Ned) Skil - Shimano  
87Arnoud Van Groen (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team  
88Maxime Bouet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
89Markus Eibegger (Aut) Footon-Servetto  
90Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing Team  
91Mirko Selvaggi (Ita) Astana  
92Serguei Klimov (Rus) Team Katusha  
93Kristof Vandewalle (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator  
94Sander Armee (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator  
95Dimitri Champion (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
96Ben Gastauer (Lux) AG2R La Mondiale  
97Ivan Santaromita (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo  
98Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Rabobank  
99Jurgen Van De Walle (Bel) Quick Step  
100Mario Aerts (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
101Dimitri Muravyev (Kaz) Team Radioshack  
102Daniele Righi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini  
103Francis Mourey (Fra) Française Des Jeux  
104Xavier Tondo Volpini (Spa) Cervelo Test Team  
105Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto0:11:19 
106Tony Martin (Ger) Team HTC - Columbia  
107Wouter Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team  
108Jose Vinc Garcia Acosta (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne0:11:37 
109Alessandro Spezialetti (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini0:14:25 
110Dario Cataldo (Ita) Quick Step  
111Christian Meier (Can) Garmin - Transitions  
112Dominik Roels (Ger) Team Milram  
113Manuel Antonio Cardoso (Por) Footon-Servetto  
114Koen De Kort (Ned) Skil - Shimano  
115Thierry Hupond (Fra) Skil - Shimano  
116Preben Vanhecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator  
117Mouro Finetto (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo  
118Addy Engels (Ned) Quick Step  
119Sebastien Delfosse (Bel) Landbouwkrediet  
DNFJoaquin Rodriquezoliver (Spa) Team Katusha  
DNFMaxime Vantomme (Bel) Team Katusha  
DNFMartin Elmiger (Swi) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFRene Mandri (Est) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFAllan Davis (Aus) Astana  
DNFScott Davis (Aus) Astana  
DNFValentin Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana  
DNFDavid Lopezgarcia (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne  
DNFAitor Galdos (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi  
DNFAlan Perezlezaun (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi  
DNFMatthias Brandle (Aut) Footon-Servetto  
DNFEros Capecchi (Ita) Footon-Servetto  
DNFMartin Pedersen (Den) Footon-Servetto  
DNFRafael Valls (Alb) Footon-Servetto  
DNFGianni Meersman (Bel) Française Des Jeux  
DNFWesley Sulzberger (Aus) Française Des Jeux  
DNFSteven Cozza (USA) Garmin - Transitions  
DNFTimothy Duggan (USA) Garmin - Transitions  
DNFMartijn Maaskant (Ned) Garmin - Transitions  
DNFDanny Pate (USA) Garmin - Transitions  
DNFRicardo Vandervelde (Ned) Garmin - Transitions  
DNFFrancesco Belloti (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo  
DNFManuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo  
DNFFrederik Willems (Bel) Liquigas-Doimo  
DNFGerben Lowik (Ned) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
DNFJean-Christophe Perraud (Fra) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
DNFDries Devenyns (Bel) Quick Step  
DNFKevin Deweert (Bel) Quick Step  
DNFJerome Pineau (Fra) Quick Step  
DNFLars Boom (Ned) Rabobank  
DNFRussell Downing (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team  
DNFDavide Vigano (Ita) Sky Professional Cycling Team  
DNFMartin Velits (Svk) Team HTC - Columbia  
DNFNiki Terpstra (Ned) Team Milram  
DNFPaul Voss (Ger) Team Milram  
DNFPeter Wrolich (Aut) Team Milram  
DNFBen Hermans (Bel) Team Radioshack  
DNFFuyu Li (Chn) Team Radioshack  
DNFRoman Vaitkus (Ltu) Team Radioshack  
DNFJonas Aaen-Jorgensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank  
DNFAndre Steensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank  
DNFLaurent Didier (Lux) Team Saxo Bank  
DNFJens Voigt (Ger) Team Saxo Bank  
DNFBrent Bookwalters (USA) BMC Racing Team  
DNFAlexander Kristoff (Nor) BMC Racing Team  
DNFMathias Frank (Swi) BMC Racing Team  
DNFJeffry Louder (USA) BMC Racing Team  
DNFSimon Zahner (Swi) BMC Racing Team  
DNFDavide Appollonio (Ita) Cervelo Test Team  
DNFPhilip Deignan (Irl) Cervelo Test Team  
DNFDirk Bellemakers (Ned) Landbouwkrediet  
DNFDavy Commeyne (Bel) Landbouwkrediet  
DNFKevin Neyrinck (Bel) Landbouwkrediet  
DNFFloris Goesinnen (Ned) Skil - Shimano  
DNFYann Huguet (Fra) Skil - Shimano  
DNFPiet Rooijakkers (Ned) Skil - Shimano  
DNFPieter Jacobs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator  
DNFPieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator  


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