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Gilbert keeps his promise on the Cauberg

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Serguei Ivanov (Katusha) was the defending champion.

Serguei Ivanov (Katusha) was the defending champion.
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto)

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto)
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) on his way to victory.

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) on his way to victory.
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) leads on the climb.

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) leads on the climb.
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) waits to make his move.

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) waits to make his move.
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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Paul Martens (Rabobank) rode a strong race to finish 11th.

Paul Martens (Rabobank) rode a strong race to finish 11th.
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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The Rabobank duo of Nick Nuyens and Laurens Ten Dam check their lead.

The Rabobank duo of Nick Nuyens and Laurens Ten Dam check their lead.
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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Maxime Vantomme (Team Katusha) leads the peloton.

Maxime Vantomme (Team Katusha) leads the peloton.
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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Mathew Hayman (Team Sky)

Mathew Hayman (Team Sky)
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team) finished an impressive eighth.

Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team) finished an impressive eighth.
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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The leaders follow race director Leo van Vliet's car on a climb.

The leaders follow race director Leo van Vliet's car on a climb.
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank) leads Karsten Kroon (BMC Racing Team) around a corner.

Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank) leads Karsten Kroon (BMC Racing Team) around a corner.
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) early in the race.

Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) early in the race.
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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Dutch rider Robert Gesink (Rabobank)

Dutch rider Robert Gesink (Rabobank)
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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Lars Boom (Rabobank) didn't finish the event.

Lars Boom (Rabobank) didn't finish the event.
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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Karsten Kroon (BMC Racing Team) landed in the top 10.

Karsten Kroon (BMC Racing Team) landed in the top 10.
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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Filippo Pozzato (Team Katusha) took his time, finishing more than 10 minutes down.

Filippo Pozzato (Team Katusha) took his time, finishing more than 10 minutes down.
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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Lars Boom (Rabobank) takes on some fluid during the race.

Lars Boom (Rabobank) takes on some fluid during the race.
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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Albert Timmer (Skil - Shimano) lost nearly nine minutes.

Albert Timmer (Skil - Shimano) lost nearly nine minutes.
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team)

Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team)
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) finished down in 18th place.

Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) finished down in 18th place.
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) lost 18 seconds on the final climb.

Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) lost 18 seconds on the final climb.
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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Alexandr Kolobnev (Team Katusha)

Alexandr Kolobnev (Team Katusha)
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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It's not just the bike riders that are under a watchful eye, with the motorbike riders having to pass alcohol control.

It's not just the bike riders that are under a watchful eye, with the motorbike riders having to pass alcohol control.
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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Serguei Ivanov (Katusha) looked strong on the day.

Serguei Ivanov (Katusha) looked strong on the day.
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) wins the Amstel Gold Race.

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) wins the Amstel Gold Race.
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) shows off the world champion's colours as he rides for his team-mate.

Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) shows off the world champion's colours as he rides for his team-mate.
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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The lead group passes through.

The lead group passes through.
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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As with all tough Classics, it's not long before riders start falling out the peloton's rear.

As with all tough Classics, it's not long before riders start falling out the peloton's rear.
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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Yo, nice mo: Steven Cozza (Garmin-Transitions) rides in the bunch.

Yo, nice mo: Steven Cozza (Garmin-Transitions) rides in the bunch.
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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Lars Boom (Rabobank) by the team car.

Lars Boom (Rabobank) by the team car.
(Image credit: Bert Geerts/dcp-bertgeerts@xs4all.nl)
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The first chase group with Evans, Kolobnev, Cunego and Schleck chase after Ivanov.

The first chase group with Evans, Kolobnev, Cunego and Schleck chase after Ivanov.
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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Gilbert gets a big hug from his papa.

Gilbert gets a big hug from his papa.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The Footon-Servetto team

The Footon-Servetto team
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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Oscar Freire has a chat before the start.

Oscar Freire has a chat before the start.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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The Garmin-Transitions team at Amstel

The Garmin-Transitions team at Amstel
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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The view from the crowd of the podium.

The view from the crowd of the podium.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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Philippe Gilbert celebrates his win.

Philippe Gilbert celebrates his win.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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HTC-Columbia

HTC-Columbia
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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The riders await the start.

The riders await the start.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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Philippe Gilbert is interviewed.

Philippe Gilbert is interviewed.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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The Francaise des Jeux riders relax before the start.

The Francaise des Jeux riders relax before the start.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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Francaise des Jeux at the presentation.

Francaise des Jeux at the presentation.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) went on the attack in the final 10km

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) went on the attack in the final 10km
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Staf Scheirlinckx (Omega Pharma-Lotto) watches the other riders in the early break

Staf Scheirlinckx (Omega Pharma-Lotto) watches the other riders in the early break
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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The area after the finish was also the feed zone

The area after the finish was also the feed zone
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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The early break goes over the Cauberg for the second time

The early break goes over the Cauberg for the second time
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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Peter Wrolich and Milram at the presentation.

Peter Wrolich and Milram at the presentation.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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The AG2R La Mondiale team

The AG2R La Mondiale team
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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Andy Schleck and the Saxo Bank boys.

Andy Schleck and the Saxo Bank boys.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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Stephen Cozza (Garmin-Transitions)

Stephen Cozza (Garmin-Transitions)
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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Damiano Cunego (Lampre)

Damiano Cunego (Lampre)
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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Cadel Evans (BMC) gets a special call-up at the team presentation.

Cadel Evans (BMC) gets a special call-up at the team presentation.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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Serguei Ivanov is ready to defend his Amstel Gold Race title

Serguei Ivanov is ready to defend his Amstel Gold Race title
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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Katusha at the Amstel Gold Race.

Katusha at the Amstel Gold Race.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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Skil-Shimano is presented.

Skil-Shimano is presented.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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Team Sky at the start.

Team Sky at the start.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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Riders await the start of the Amstel Gold Race.

Riders await the start of the Amstel Gold Race.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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The start in Maastricht of the Amstel Gold Race.

The start in Maastricht of the Amstel Gold Race.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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The Omega Pharma Lotto team was finally able to get a win.

The Omega Pharma Lotto team was finally able to get a win.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) is mobbed after his win.

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) is mobbed after his win.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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The Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator team

The Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator team
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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The Vacansoleil team

The Vacansoleil team
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) smiles at the team presentation of Amstel Gold.

Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) smiles at the team presentation of Amstel Gold.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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The hometown favorites, Rabobank.

The hometown favorites, Rabobank.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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Filippo Pozzato (Katusha)

Filippo Pozzato (Katusha)
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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The Saxo Bank riders stayed at the front.

The Saxo Bank riders stayed at the front.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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The Lampre riders control the pace.

The Lampre riders control the pace.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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Lampre-Farnese Vini at the Amstel Gold race.

Lampre-Farnese Vini at the Amstel Gold race.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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The Landbouwkrediet team.

The Landbouwkrediet team.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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Peter Wrolich (Milram), 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)

Peter Wrolich (Milram), 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)
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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The breakaway after the second trip up the Cauberg.

The breakaway after the second trip up the Cauberg.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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The peloton heads out for the 45th Amstel Gold Race.

The peloton heads out for the 45th Amstel Gold Race.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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The Omega Pharma-Lotto team.

The Omega Pharma-Lotto team.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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The market in Maastricht was packed.

The market in Maastricht was packed.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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The peloton crests the Cauberg for the second time.

The peloton crests the Cauberg for the second time.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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Peter Wrolich (Milram), 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) made the breakaway.

Peter Wrolich (Milram), 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) made the breakaway.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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Mark Sergent, Lotto boss, was over the moon with the win of Gilbert.

Mark Sergent, Lotto boss, was over the moon with the win of Gilbert.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank) made all the right moves but took seventh.

Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank) made all the right moves but took seventh.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Bert de Waele (Landbouwkrediet) led out the sprint but faded to 4th ahead of Damiano Cunego (Lampre)

Bert de Waele (Landbouwkrediet) led out the sprint but faded to 4th ahead of Damiano Cunego (Lampre)
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) claimed the last podium spot.

Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) claimed the last podium spot.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) got past Gasparotto to take second.

Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) got past Gasparotto to take second.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Philippe Gilbert was a happy man after winning Amstel Gold Race.

Philippe Gilbert was a happy man after winning Amstel Gold Race.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto)

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto)
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Gilbert celebrates his Amstel win

Gilbert celebrates his Amstel win
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The peloton enjoyed lovely clear skies for the Amstel Gold Race

The peloton enjoyed lovely clear skies for the Amstel Gold Race
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Quick Step at Amstel Gold.

Quick Step at Amstel Gold.
(Image credit: Elmar Krings)
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Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil) came in 8th.

Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil) came in 8th.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Chris Horner (RadioShack) and Karsten Kroon (BMC) rounded out the top 10.

Chris Horner (RadioShack) and Karsten Kroon (BMC) rounded out the top 10.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Cadel Evans and Serguei Ivanov come across a dozen seconds down.

Cadel Evans and Serguei Ivanov come across a dozen seconds down.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) rode aggressively and it paid off.

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) rode aggressively and it paid off.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) was on fire in the Amstel Gold Race.

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) was on fire in the Amstel Gold Race.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The elite lead group of Ivanov, Cunego, Schleck, Kolobnev and Evans.

The elite lead group of Ivanov, Cunego, Schleck, Kolobnev and Evans.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Chris Horner (Radioshack) and Karsten Kroon (BMC) rolled in for the top 10

Chris Horner (Radioshack) and Karsten Kroon (BMC) rolled in for the top 10
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Paul Martens (Rabobank) leads a group in the Amstel Gold Race

Paul Martens (Rabobank) leads a group in the Amstel Gold Race
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Damiano Cunego (Lampre) pushes the pace in the breakaway.

Damiano Cunego (Lampre) pushes the pace in the breakaway.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) took second in the Amstel Gold Race.

Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) took second in the Amstel Gold Race.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Oscar Freire (Rabobank) came in 17 seconds down.

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) came in 17 seconds down.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Cadel Evans (BMC) rode aggressively but could manage only 13th

Cadel Evans (BMC) rode aggressively but could manage only 13th
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Philippe Gilbert struck out on his own, too, but saved enough to later win the sprint.

Philippe Gilbert struck out on his own, too, but saved enough to later win the sprint.
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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Ivanov split up an elite bunch with several vicious attacks.

Ivanov split up an elite bunch with several vicious attacks.
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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Serguei Ivanov (Katusha) on the attack in the finale of the Amstel Gold Race.

Serguei Ivanov (Katusha) on the attack in the finale of the Amstel Gold Race.
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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Alexander Kolobnev tries in vain to hold off the sprinting bunch behind.

Alexander Kolobnev tries in vain to hold off the sprinting bunch behind.
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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Gilbert was congratulated vigorously

Gilbert was congratulated vigorously
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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Gilbert celebrates the win with his team.

Gilbert celebrates the win with his team.
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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The Omega Pharma-Lotto riders each got a hug from Gilbert.

The Omega Pharma-Lotto riders each got a hug from Gilbert.
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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His face dusty, a tired but very happy Philippe Gilbert explains how he won the Amtel Gold Rac.e

His face dusty, a tired but very happy Philippe Gilbert explains how he won the Amtel Gold Rac.e
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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Kisses for Philippe Gilbert, winner of the Amstel Gold Race

Kisses for Philippe Gilbert, winner of the Amstel Gold Race
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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Philippe Gilbert takes the flowers in Holland.

Philippe Gilbert takes the flowers in Holland.
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) raced his heart out in the Amstel Gold Race

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) raced his heart out in the Amstel Gold Race
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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The final Amstel Gold Race podium: Enrico Gasparotto, Philippe Gilbert and Ryder Hesjedal

The final Amstel Gold Race podium: Enrico Gasparotto, Philippe Gilbert and Ryder Hesjedal
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) wins the Amstel Gold Race

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) wins the Amstel Gold Race
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Albert Timmer (Skil-Shimano) enjoying the nice weather.

Albert Timmer (Skil-Shimano) enjoying the nice weather.
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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Andriy Grivko (Astana) enjoying a relaxed start to the Amstel Gold Race.

Andriy Grivko (Astana) enjoying a relaxed start to the Amstel Gold Race.
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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The early breakaway in the Amstel Gold Race.

The early breakaway in the Amstel Gold Race.
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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One of the iconic windmills of the Netherlands.

One of the iconic windmills of the Netherlands.
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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The Vacansoleil team bus is stopped for an alcohol test of the driver.

The Vacansoleil team bus is stopped for an alcohol test of the driver.
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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The peloton takes on the Cauberg for the first time.

The peloton takes on the Cauberg for the first time.
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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The Schleck brothers are up front in the peloton on the first trip up the Cauberg.

The Schleck brothers are up front in the peloton on the first trip up the Cauberg.
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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The pace was relaxed on the first lap.

The pace was relaxed on the first lap.
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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The breakaway takes on the Cauberg for the first time.

The breakaway takes on the Cauberg for the first time.
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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The driver of the Astana team bus gets an alcohol breath test at the Amstel Gold Race.

The driver of the Astana team bus gets an alcohol breath test at the Amstel Gold Race.
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)

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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