Gilbert keeps his promise on the Cauberg

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.

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Full Results
1Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto6:22:54
2Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Transitions0:00:02
3Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) AstanaRow 2 - Cell 2
4Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet0:00:05
5Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-DoimoRow 4 - Cell 2
6Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese ViniRow 5 - Cell 2
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 RadioshackRow 9 - Cell 2
11Paul Martens (Ger) RabobankRow 10 - Cell 2
12Sergie Ivanov (Rus) Team KatushaRow 11 - Cell 2
13Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing TeamRow 12 - Cell 2
14Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank0:00:17
15Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Team KatushaRow 14 - Cell 2
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 MilramRow 24 - Cell 2
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 - EuskadiRow 29 - Cell 2
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 - ShimanoRow 35 - Cell 2
37Bert Scheirlinckx (Bel) LandbouwkredietRow 36 - Cell 2
38Jerome Baugnies (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - MercatorRow 37 - Cell 2
39Roy Sentjens (Bel) Team MilramRow 38 - Cell 2
40Andriy Grivko (Ukr) AstanaRow 39 - Cell 2
41Michel Kreder (Ned) Garmin - TransitionsRow 40 - Cell 2
42Michael Albasini (Swi) Team HTC - ColumbiaRow 41 - Cell 2
43Juan Jose Oroz Ugalde (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 42 - Cell 2
44Geert Verheyen (Bel) LandbouwkredietRow 43 - Cell 2
45Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor) Sky Professional Cycling TeamRow 44 - Cell 2
46Inaki Isasi Flores (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 45 - Cell 2
47Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) AstanaRow 46 - Cell 2
48Rob Ruygh (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling TeamRow 47 - Cell 2
49David Loosli (Swi) Lampre-Farnese Vini0:03:26
50Dmitriy Fofonov (Kaz) Astana0:03:28
51Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 50 - Cell 2
52Kjell Carlstrom (Fin) Sky Professional Cycling TeamRow 51 - Cell 2
53Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) RabobankRow 52 - Cell 2
54Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling TeamRow 53 - Cell 2
55Maxime Montfort (Bel) Team HTC - ColumbiaRow 54 - Cell 2
56Peter Velits (Svk) Team HTC - Columbia0:03:32
57Aitor Perez Arrieta (Spa) Footon-ServettoRow 56 - Cell 2
58Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Team Katusha0:03:38
59Daniele Pietropolli (Ita) Lampre-Farnese ViniRow 58 - Cell 2
60Jussi Veikkanen (Fin) Française Des JeuxRow 59 - Cell 2
61Johannes Frohlinger (Ger) Team MilramRow 60 - Cell 2
62Nicki Sorensen (Den) Team Saxo BankRow 61 - Cell 2
63Ivan Rovny (Rus) Team RadioshackRow 62 - Cell 2
64Simon Gerrans (Aus) Sky Professional Cycling TeamRow 63 - Cell 2
65Sandy Casar (Fra) Française Des JeuxRow 64 - Cell 2
66Biel Kadri (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 65 - Cell 2
67Christian Knees (Ger) Team MilramRow 66 - Cell 2
68Anthony Roux (Fra) Française Des Jeux0:03:45
69Ivan Velasco Murillo (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi0:03:52
70Matteo Bono (Ita) Lampre-Farnese ViniRow 69 - Cell 2
71Marco Pinotti (Ita) Team HTC - Columbia0:03:59
72Matteo Carrara (Ita) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling TeamRow 71 - Cell 2
73Christophe Brandt (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto0:04:02
74Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 73 - Cell 2
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) LandbouwkredietRow 77 - Cell 2
79Jacob Fuglsang (Den) Team Saxo BankRow 78 - Cell 2
80Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Team KatushaRow 79 - Cell 2
81Imanol Erviti (Spa) Caisse d'EpargneRow 80 - Cell 2
82Sergey Lagutin (Uzb) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling TeamRow 81 - Cell 2
83Mathew Hayman (Aus) Sky Professional Cycling TeamRow 82 - Cell 2
84Steven Van Vooren (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - MercatorRow 83 - Cell 2
85Kristjan Koren (Slo) Liquigas-DoimoRow 84 - Cell 2
86Roy Curvers (Ned) Skil - ShimanoRow 85 - Cell 2
87Arnoud Van Groen (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling TeamRow 86 - Cell 2
88Maxime Bouet (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 87 - Cell 2
89Markus Eibegger (Aut) Footon-ServettoRow 88 - Cell 2
90Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 89 - Cell 2
91Mirko Selvaggi (Ita) AstanaRow 90 - Cell 2
92Serguei Klimov (Rus) Team KatushaRow 91 - Cell 2
93Kristof Vandewalle (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - MercatorRow 92 - Cell 2
94Sander Armee (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - MercatorRow 93 - Cell 2
95Dimitri Champion (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 94 - Cell 2
96Ben Gastauer (Lux) AG2R La MondialeRow 95 - Cell 2
97Ivan Santaromita (Ita) Liquigas-DoimoRow 96 - Cell 2
98Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) RabobankRow 97 - Cell 2
99Jurgen Van De Walle (Bel) Quick StepRow 98 - Cell 2
100Mario Aerts (Bel) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 99 - Cell 2
101Dimitri Muravyev (Kaz) Team RadioshackRow 100 - Cell 2
102Daniele Righi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese ViniRow 101 - Cell 2
103Francis Mourey (Fra) Française Des JeuxRow 102 - Cell 2
104Xavier Tondo Volpini (Spa) Cervelo Test TeamRow 103 - Cell 2
105Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto0:11:19
106Tony Martin (Ger) Team HTC - ColumbiaRow 105 - Cell 2
107Wouter Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling TeamRow 106 - Cell 2
108Jose Vinc Garcia Acosta (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne0:11:37
109Alessandro Spezialetti (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini0:14:25
110Dario Cataldo (Ita) Quick StepRow 109 - Cell 2
111Christian Meier (Can) Garmin - TransitionsRow 110 - Cell 2
112Dominik Roels (Ger) Team MilramRow 111 - Cell 2
113Manuel Antonio Cardoso (Por) Footon-ServettoRow 112 - Cell 2
114Koen De Kort (Ned) Skil - ShimanoRow 113 - Cell 2
115Thierry Hupond (Fra) Skil - ShimanoRow 114 - Cell 2
116Preben Vanhecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - MercatorRow 115 - Cell 2
117Mouro Finetto (Ita) Liquigas-DoimoRow 116 - Cell 2
118Addy Engels (Ned) Quick StepRow 117 - Cell 2
119Sebastien Delfosse (Bel) LandbouwkredietRow 118 - Cell 2
DNFJoaquin Rodriquezoliver (Spa) Team KatushaRow 119 - Cell 2
DNFMaxime Vantomme (Bel) Team KatushaRow 120 - Cell 2
DNFMartin Elmiger (Swi) AG2R La MondialeRow 121 - Cell 2
DNFRene Mandri (Est) AG2R La MondialeRow 122 - Cell 2
DNFAllan Davis (Aus) AstanaRow 123 - Cell 2
DNFScott Davis (Aus) AstanaRow 124 - Cell 2
DNFValentin Iglinskiy (Kaz) AstanaRow 125 - Cell 2
DNFDavid Lopezgarcia (Spa) Caisse d'EpargneRow 126 - Cell 2
DNFAitor Galdos (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 127 - Cell 2
DNFAlan Perezlezaun (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 128 - Cell 2
DNFMatthias Brandle (Aut) Footon-ServettoRow 129 - Cell 2
DNFEros Capecchi (Ita) Footon-ServettoRow 130 - Cell 2
DNFMartin Pedersen (Den) Footon-ServettoRow 131 - Cell 2
DNFRafael Valls (Alb) Footon-ServettoRow 132 - Cell 2
DNFGianni Meersman (Bel) Française Des JeuxRow 133 - Cell 2
DNFWesley Sulzberger (Aus) Française Des JeuxRow 134 - Cell 2
DNFSteven Cozza (USA) Garmin - TransitionsRow 135 - Cell 2
DNFTimothy Duggan (USA) Garmin - TransitionsRow 136 - Cell 2
DNFMartijn Maaskant (Ned) Garmin - TransitionsRow 137 - Cell 2
DNFDanny Pate (USA) Garmin - TransitionsRow 138 - Cell 2
DNFRicardo Vandervelde (Ned) Garmin - TransitionsRow 139 - Cell 2
DNFFrancesco Belloti (Ita) Liquigas-DoimoRow 140 - Cell 2
DNFManuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas-DoimoRow 141 - Cell 2
DNFFrederik Willems (Bel) Liquigas-DoimoRow 142 - Cell 2
DNFGerben Lowik (Ned) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 143 - Cell 2
DNFJean-Christophe Perraud (Fra) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 144 - Cell 2
DNFDries Devenyns (Bel) Quick StepRow 145 - Cell 2
DNFKevin Deweert (Bel) Quick StepRow 146 - Cell 2
DNFJerome Pineau (Fra) Quick StepRow 147 - Cell 2
DNFLars Boom (Ned) RabobankRow 148 - Cell 2
DNFRussell Downing (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling TeamRow 149 - Cell 2
DNFDavide Vigano (Ita) Sky Professional Cycling TeamRow 150 - Cell 2
DNFMartin Velits (Svk) Team HTC - ColumbiaRow 151 - Cell 2
DNFNiki Terpstra (Ned) Team MilramRow 152 - Cell 2
DNFPaul Voss (Ger) Team MilramRow 153 - Cell 2
DNFPeter Wrolich (Aut) Team MilramRow 154 - Cell 2
DNFBen Hermans (Bel) Team RadioshackRow 155 - Cell 2
DNFFuyu Li (Chn) Team RadioshackRow 156 - Cell 2
DNFRoman Vaitkus (Ltu) Team RadioshackRow 157 - Cell 2
DNFJonas Aaen-Jorgensen (Den) Team Saxo BankRow 158 - Cell 2
DNFAndre Steensen (Den) Team Saxo BankRow 159 - Cell 2
DNFLaurent Didier (Lux) Team Saxo BankRow 160 - Cell 2
DNFJens Voigt (Ger) Team Saxo BankRow 161 - Cell 2
DNFBrent Bookwalters (USA) BMC Racing TeamRow 162 - Cell 2
DNFAlexander Kristoff (Nor) BMC Racing TeamRow 163 - Cell 2
DNFMathias Frank (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 164 - Cell 2
DNFJeffry Louder (USA) BMC Racing TeamRow 165 - Cell 2
DNFSimon Zahner (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 166 - Cell 2
DNFDavide Appollonio (Ita) Cervelo Test TeamRow 167 - Cell 2
DNFPhilip Deignan (Irl) Cervelo Test TeamRow 168 - Cell 2
DNFDirk Bellemakers (Ned) LandbouwkredietRow 169 - Cell 2
DNFDavy Commeyne (Bel) LandbouwkredietRow 170 - Cell 2
DNFKevin Neyrinck (Bel) LandbouwkredietRow 171 - Cell 2
DNFFloris Goesinnen (Ned) Skil - ShimanoRow 172 - Cell 2
DNFYann Huguet (Fra) Skil - ShimanoRow 173 - Cell 2
DNFPiet Rooijakkers (Ned) Skil - ShimanoRow 174 - Cell 2
DNFPieter Jacobs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - MercatorRow 175 - Cell 2
DNFPieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - MercatorRow 176 - Cell 2


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