Gilbert wins Amstel Gold Race

Belgian beats Kwiatkowski in two-up sprint

Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) continued his remarkable run this spring, adding a fourth Amstel Gold Race title to his palmares on Sunday in a particularly exciting edition of the Ardennes Classics opener, which seemed to benefit from the much-discussed removal of the Cauberg as the final climb of the day.

The race had faced criticism for becoming predictable – a mere waiting game until the Cauberg finale – but Gilbert, who won the Tour of Flanders two weeks ago, was part of a decisive selection that formed on the Kruisberg some 40 kilometres out.

Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) wasn’t in that initial group of eight but the fellow former world champion and Amstel winner jumped up to the head of affairs 10km later and he and Gilbert emerged as the strongest two in the race, forging clear together over the Bemelberg, the new final climb of the day.

The remnants of that leading group – Michael Albasini (Orica-Scott), Nathan Haas (Dimension Data), Ion Izaguirre (Bahrain-Merida), Jose Joauin Rojas (Movistar), and Kwiatkowski’s teammate Sergio Henao – lacked the cohesion and firepower to get back on terms in the final five kilometres, leaving Kwiatkowski and Gilbert to play cat and mouse in the final kilometre.

Kwiatkowski forced his rival onto the front before delivering a stinging acceleration, but in the slight headwind in Valkeburg it proved too far out, and Gilbert slowly but surely got himself back on terms and came round to celebrate his fourth victory of the spring.

“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, whose race was thrown into jeopardy at the half-way mark when he crashed heavily and required a bike change and a painful chase to make it back to the peloton. "I thought my race was over."

Gilbert bounced back, as he has done over the course of this season at QuickStep, where he seems a man reborn. The 34-year-old, free to target the cobbled classics away from Greg Van Avermaet at BMC, enjoyed a stellar couple of weeks in northern Belgium, and it’s clear his form has carried down south to the Ardennes, the races which have brought him so much success over the years. Indeed, this is just his second Ardennes victory since that glittering treble in 2011, and he seems to have rediscovered that magic touch of old.

"My goal is to win a classic every year. I won two this year, maybe to make up for the years I didn't,” Gilbert added.

“It was a hard final. We went from the Kruisberg, it was a long long move again. All of us deserved the win today because we really worked together. In the end there’s only one winner, but we did nice work together in the last 40km. 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 per cent more it makes the difference. I told him, ‘we ride until the last k and the best man wins’ – that’s the best deal you can make.”

Early hostilities

After the white-knuckle drama of the cobbled classics, the Ardennes have faced derision in recent years for serving up bland and predictable racing, with Amstel accused of being a 250-odd kilometre procession to the Cauberg. The organisers hoped to shake things up in 2013 by moving the finish line 1.8km back from the summit, but by scrapping it as the final climb altogether this year, it seems like they’ve finally struck, well, gold.

The Cauberg appeared three times, the final time as the third-to-last climb, while the gentler Bemeleberg would act as the final climb with just over five kilometres remaining. Many predicted a more open affair, with riders encouraged to try things and take the race on from further out, and that’s exactly what we got.

Granted, the opening 220 kilometres were uneventful; a 12-rider breakaway went early and stayed away for most of the day. In there were Lars Boom (LottoNL-Jumbo), Stijn Vandenbergh (AG2R-La Mondiale), Mads Wurtz Schmidt (Katusha-Alpecin), Tim Ariesen (Roompot), Nikita Stalnov (Astana), Michal Paluta (CCC Sprandi Polkowice), Brendan Canty (Cannondale-Drapac), Johann Van Zyl (Dimension Data), Kenneth Van Rooy (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Pieter Van Speybrouck (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Vincenzo Albanese (Bardiani-CSF), Fabien Grellier (Direct Energie).

However, just after the final member of that group, Grellier, accepted defeat, the race sprang to life on the Kruisberg when Lotto Soudal’s Tiesj Benoot put in a stringing acceleration. Sergio Henao, who had led the pack onto the climb, was quickly on the case, as was Gilbert, who has hardly missed a move all spring. Albasini, Haas, and Bert Van Lindeman (LottoNL-Jumbo) also made the boat, while Izaguirre and Rojas managed to make the bridge beyond the summit.

Cue panic stations for Paris-Roubaix champion Greg Van Avermaet, the only rider to outshine Gilbert this spring, whose BMC teammates had set a fierce pace over the previous 30km. The chase group splintered then swelled as the gap hovered precariously above the 15-second mark, the ensuing climbs of the Eyserbosweg and Fromberg aiding the leading group’s cause, though a mechanical saw Benoot lose contact.

Onto the Keutenberg, with 29km to go, and the front of the chasing pack had the lead group in their sights. Kwiatkowski was alongside Van Avermaet and put in a hugely impressive acceleration to burst clear. A minute or so later he was up at the head of the race, replacing Lindeman, who couldn’t hold the pace.

Van Avermaet was forced to settle into a chasing group with Alejandro Valverde, who had a teammate up the road, Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), and Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo). They were soon joined by another chasing trio of Warren Barguil (Sunweb), Rui Costa (UAE), and Bob Jungels (QuickStep) to form an even fight of seven on seven. Either way, the bookmakers’ pre-race favourites, Michael Matthews (Sunweb) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) were caught behind in the small main pack, which would only become more distanced from the head of affairs.

The chasing seven lacked the cohesion of the leading group, which Gilbert said worked so well together, and the gap stayed around the 45-second mark for the most part. It did drop to half a minute on the Geulhemmerberg, just after the final Cauberg, but despite a cursory attack from Valverde, it always looked like the winner would be coming from the front group.

And on the Bemelberg it became clear who the likely candidates were as Kwiatkowski accelerated and Gilbert followed. The others did their best to hold the wheels but the elastic snapped when Gilbert produced an acceleration of his own. And they were away.

Izaguirre first tried to close it down but got nowhere, then Haas drove clear promisingly but locked up before he could finish the job, while Albasini couldn’t offer up anything much and Rojas seemed to want a free ride to the finish.

The duo had half a minute heading into the final kilometre, where Kwiatkowski looked to have played it perfectly, only to leave too much road ahead of himself and allow for another chapter to be written in this remarkable renaissance of Philippe Gilbert.

Full Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors6:31:40 
2Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky  
3Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-Scott0:00:10 
4Nathan Haas (Aus) Dimension Data  
5Jose Rojas (Spa) Movistar Team  
6Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) Team Sky  
7Jon Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Bahrain-Merida0:00:14 
8Michael Gogl (Aut) Trek-Segafredo0:01:10 
9Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida0:01:11 
10Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb  
11Juan Jose Lobato Del Valle (Spa) Team LottoNl-Jumbo  
12Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team  
13Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale  
14Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ  
15Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
16Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Dimension Data  
17Jay Mccarthy (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe  
18Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-Scott  
19Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team  
20Paul Martens (Ger) Team LottoNl-Jumbo  
21Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Cannondale-Drapac  
22Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Orica-Scott  
23Nick Van Der Lijke (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij  
24Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Lotto Soudal  
25Alex Howes (USA) Cannondale-Drapac  
26Maurits Lammertink (Ned) Katusha-Alpecin  
27Diego Ulissi (Ita) Team UAE Emirates  
28Anthony Roux (Fra) FDJ  
29Manuele Mori (Ita) Team UAE Emirates  
30Georg Preidler (Aut) Team Sunweb  
31Dion Smith (NZl) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
32Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-Segafredo  
33Simone Petilli (Ita) Team UAE Emirates  
34Rudy Molard (Fra) FDJ  
35Michael Valgren Andersen (Den) Astana Pro Team  
36Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick-Step Floors  
37Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
38Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Team UAE Emirates  
39Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors  
40Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Team LottoNl-Jumbo  
41Daniel Moreno (Spa) Movistar Team  
42Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
43Cyril Gautier (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
44Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing Team  
45Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Sunweb  
46Tom-Jelte Slagter (Ned) Cannondale-Drapac0:01:32 
47Antwan Tolhoek (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo0:01:46 
48Jacques Willem Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) Dimension Data0:02:55 
49Simon Clarke (Aus) Cannondale-Drapac0:03:42 
50Dylan Van Baarle (Ned) Cannondale-Drapac  
51Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert0:04:05 
52Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team  
53Angelo Tulik (Fra) Direct Energie0:06:19 
54Simon Geschke (Ger) Team Sunweb  
55Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe0:06:43 
56Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe  
57Serge Pauwels (Bel) Dimension Data  
58Thomas Sprengers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
59Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Direct Energie  
60Lilian Calmejane (Fra) Direct Energie  
61Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Quick-Step Floors  
62Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Bahrain-Merida  
63Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) BMC Racing Team0:06:47 
64Sam Oomen (Ned) Team Sunweb0:07:05 
65Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:07:16 
66Petr Vakoc (Cze) Quick-Step Floors0:07:30 
67Grega Bole (Slo) Bahrain-Merida  
68Michal Golas (Pol) Team Sky  
69Sean De Bie (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
70Bram Tankink (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo  
71Jérôme Baugnies (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
72Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo0:09:21 
73Lorenzo Rota (Ita) Bardiani - CSF  
74Pim Ligthart (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij  
75Rúben Guerreiro (Por) Trek-Segafredo  
76Thomas Degand (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
77Ángel Vicioso Arcos (Spa) Katusha-Alpecin  
78Martijn Budding (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij  
79Sebastian Henao Gomez (Col) Team Sky  
80Jeroen Meijers (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij0:09:30 
81Romain Sicard (Fra) Direct Energie  
82Kevin Reza (Fra) FDJ0:10:26 
83Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
84Benoit Vaugrenard (Fra) FDJ  
85Eliot Lietaer (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
86Matej Mohoric (Slo) Team UAE Emirates  
87Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC Racing Team  
88Silvan Dillier (Swi) BMC Racing Team  
89Jan Tratnik (Slo) CCC Sprandi Polkowice  
90Jakub Kaczmarek (Pol) CCC Sprandi Polkowice  
91Simone Ponzi (Ita) CCC Sprandi Polkowice  
92Jesus Herrada Lopez (Spa) Movistar Team  
93André Cardoso (Por) Trek-Segafredo  
94Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin  
95Jaco Venter (RSA) Dimension Data  
96Mads Würtz Schmidt (Den) Katusha-Alpecin0:12:11 
97Rick Zabel (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin  
98Roy Curvers (Ned) Team Sunweb  
99Floris Gerfs (Ned) BMC Racing Team  
100Kevin Deltombe (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
101Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Team Sky  
102Adrian Kurek (Pol) CCC Sprandi Polkowice  
103Jonas Koch (Ger) CCC Sprandi Polkowice  
104Michal Paluta (Pol) CCC Sprandi Polkowice  
105Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Quick-Step Floors  
106Brendan Canty (Aus) Cannondale-Drapac  
107Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Bardiani - CSF  
108Guillaume Martin (Fra) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
109Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb  
110Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
111Axel Domont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
112Timo Roosen (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo  
113Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team  
114Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale  
115Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) Movistar Team  
116Nikita Stalnov (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  
117Arnaud Courteille (Fra) FDJ  
118Imanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar Team  
119Rory Sutherland (Aus) Movistar Team  
120Oscar Riesebeek (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij  
121Johann Van Zyl (RSA) Dimension Data  
122Aime De Gendt (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
123Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
124Mathew Hayman (Aus) Orica-Scott  
125Toms Skujins (Lat) Cannondale-Drapac  
126Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Orica-Scott  
127Gregor Mühlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe  
DNFEnrico Gasparotto (Ita) Bahrain-Merida  
DNFYukiya Arashiro (Jpn) Bahrain-Merida  
DNFMeiyin Wang (Chn) Bahrain-Merida  
DNFIvan Garcia Cortina (Spa) Bahrain-Merida  
DNFOwain Doull (GBr) Team Sky  
DNFLukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Team Sky  
DNFDanny Van Poppel (Ned) Team Sky  
DNFZdenek Štybar (Cze) Quick-Step Floors  
DNFDaniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors  
DNFMarc Soler Gimenez (Spa) Movistar Team  
DNFMichael Hepburn (Aus) Orica-Scott  
DNFSimon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-Scott  
DNFJens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-Scott  
DNFAlbert Timmer (Ned) Team Sunweb  
DNFRemy Mertz (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
DNFBart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
DNFDaniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing Team  
DNFLars Boom (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo  
DNFErik Baska (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe  
DNFMarcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe  
DNFChristoph Pfingsten (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe  
DNFMichael Schwarzmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe  
DNFFumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) Trek-Segafredo  
DNFGregory Daniel (USA) Trek-Segafredo  
DNFJesus Hernandez Blazquez (Spa) Trek-Segafredo  
DNFEdward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo  
DNFOscar Gatto (Ita) Astana Pro Team  
DNFAndrey Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team  
DNFLaurens De Vreese (Bel) Astana Pro Team  
DNFAlexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  
DNFMatti Breschel (Den) Astana Pro Team  
DNFJenthe Biermans (Bel) Katusha-Alpecin  
DNFMarco Mathis (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin  
DNFBaptiste Planckaert (Bel) Katusha-Alpecin  
DNFAlexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFJulien Duval (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFQuentin Jauregui (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFOdd Christian Eiking (Nor) FDJ  
DNFCedric Pineau (Fra) FDJ  
DNFMatteo Bono (Ita) Team UAE Emirates  
DNFMarco Marcato (Ita) Team UAE Emirates  
DNFBen Swigt (GBr) Team UAE Emirates  
DNFAlberto Bettiol (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac  
DNFBenjamin King (USA) Dimension Data  
DNFYoucef Reguigui (Alg) Dimension Data  
DNFPreben Van Hecke (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
DNFBenjamin Declercq (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
DNFJens Wallays (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
DNFKenneth Van Rooy (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
DNFTim Ariesen (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij  
DNFMartijn Tusveld (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij  
DNFTaco Van Der Hoorn (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij  
DNFMarco Minnaard (Ned) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
DNFEnrico Barbin (Ita) Bardiani - CSF  
DNFNicola Boem (Ita) Bardiani - CSF  
DNFMirco Maestri (Ita) Bardiani - CSF  
DNFMarco Maronese (Ita) Bardiani - CSF  
DNFVincenzo Albanese (Ita) Bardiani - CSF  
DNFPaolo Simion (Ita) Bardiani - CSF  
DNFMaciej Paterski (Pol) CCC Sprandi Polkowice  
DNFFrantišek Sisr (Cze) CCC Sprandi Polkowice  
DNFBryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie  
DNFTony Hurel (Fra) Direct Energie  

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