Gilbert wins Amstel Gold Race

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

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors6:31:40
2Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team SkyRow 1 - Cell 2
3Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-Scott0:00:10
4Nathan Haas (Aus) Dimension DataRow 3 - Cell 2
5Jose Rojas (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 4 - Cell 2
6Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) Team SkyRow 5 - Cell 2
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 SunwebRow 9 - Cell 2
11Juan Jose Lobato Del Valle (Spa) Team LottoNl-JumboRow 10 - Cell 2
12Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing TeamRow 11 - Cell 2
13Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La MondialeRow 12 - Cell 2
14Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJRow 13 - Cell 2
15Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 14 - Cell 2
16Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Dimension DataRow 15 - Cell 2
17Jay Mccarthy (Aus) Bora-HansgroheRow 16 - Cell 2
18Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-ScottRow 17 - Cell 2
19Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 18 - Cell 2
20Paul Martens (Ger) Team LottoNl-JumboRow 19 - Cell 2
21Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Cannondale-DrapacRow 20 - Cell 2
22Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Orica-ScottRow 21 - Cell 2
23Nick Van Der Lijke (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse LoterijRow 22 - Cell 2
24Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Lotto SoudalRow 23 - Cell 2
25Alex Howes (USA) Cannondale-DrapacRow 24 - Cell 2
26Maurits Lammertink (Ned) Katusha-AlpecinRow 25 - Cell 2
27Diego Ulissi (Ita) Team UAE EmiratesRow 26 - Cell 2
28Anthony Roux (Fra) FDJRow 27 - Cell 2
29Manuele Mori (Ita) Team UAE EmiratesRow 28 - Cell 2
30Georg Preidler (Aut) Team SunwebRow 29 - Cell 2
31Dion Smith (NZl) Wanty - Groupe GobertRow 30 - Cell 2
32Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-SegafredoRow 31 - Cell 2
33Simone Petilli (Ita) Team UAE EmiratesRow 32 - Cell 2
34Rudy Molard (Fra) FDJRow 33 - Cell 2
35Michael Valgren Andersen (Den) Astana Pro TeamRow 34 - Cell 2
36Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick-Step FloorsRow 35 - Cell 2
37Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 36 - Cell 2
38Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Team UAE EmiratesRow 37 - Cell 2
39Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step FloorsRow 38 - Cell 2
40Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Team LottoNl-JumboRow 39 - Cell 2
41Daniel Moreno (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 40 - Cell 2
42Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 41 - Cell 2
43Cyril Gautier (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 42 - Cell 2
44Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing TeamRow 43 - Cell 2
45Warren Barguil (Fra) Team SunwebRow 44 - Cell 2
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-DrapacRow 49 - Cell 2
51Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert0:04:05
52Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro TeamRow 51 - Cell 2
53Angelo Tulik (Fra) Direct Energie0:06:19
54Simon Geschke (Ger) Team SunwebRow 53 - Cell 2
55Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe0:06:43
56Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-HansgroheRow 55 - Cell 2
57Serge Pauwels (Bel) Dimension DataRow 56 - Cell 2
58Thomas Sprengers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 57 - Cell 2
59Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Direct EnergieRow 58 - Cell 2
60Lilian Calmejane (Fra) Direct EnergieRow 59 - Cell 2
61Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Quick-Step FloorsRow 60 - Cell 2
62Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Bahrain-MeridaRow 61 - Cell 2
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-MeridaRow 66 - Cell 2
68Michal Golas (Pol) Team SkyRow 67 - Cell 2
69Sean De Bie (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 68 - Cell 2
70Bram Tankink (Ned) Team LottoNl-JumboRow 69 - Cell 2
71Jérôme Baugnies (Bel) Wanty - Groupe GobertRow 70 - Cell 2
72Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo0:09:21
73Lorenzo Rota (Ita) Bardiani - CSFRow 72 - Cell 2
74Pim Ligthart (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse LoterijRow 73 - Cell 2
75Rúben Guerreiro (Por) Trek-SegafredoRow 74 - Cell 2
76Thomas Degand (Bel) Wanty - Groupe GobertRow 75 - Cell 2
77Ángel Vicioso Arcos (Spa) Katusha-AlpecinRow 76 - Cell 2
78Martijn Budding (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse LoterijRow 77 - Cell 2
79Sebastian Henao Gomez (Col) Team SkyRow 78 - Cell 2
80Jeroen Meijers (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij0:09:30
81Romain Sicard (Fra) Direct EnergieRow 80 - Cell 2
82Kevin Reza (Fra) FDJ0:10:26
83Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 82 - Cell 2
84Benoit Vaugrenard (Fra) FDJRow 83 - Cell 2
85Eliot Lietaer (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 84 - Cell 2
86Matej Mohoric (Slo) Team UAE EmiratesRow 85 - Cell 2
87Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC Racing TeamRow 86 - Cell 2
88Silvan Dillier (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 87 - Cell 2
89Jan Tratnik (Slo) CCC Sprandi PolkowiceRow 88 - Cell 2
90Jakub Kaczmarek (Pol) CCC Sprandi PolkowiceRow 89 - Cell 2
91Simone Ponzi (Ita) CCC Sprandi PolkowiceRow 90 - Cell 2
92Jesus Herrada Lopez (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 91 - Cell 2
93André Cardoso (Por) Trek-SegafredoRow 92 - Cell 2
94Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Katusha-AlpecinRow 93 - Cell 2
95Jaco Venter (RSA) Dimension DataRow 94 - Cell 2
96Mads Würtz Schmidt (Den) Katusha-Alpecin0:12:11
97Rick Zabel (Ger) Katusha-AlpecinRow 96 - Cell 2
98Roy Curvers (Ned) Team SunwebRow 97 - Cell 2
99Floris Gerfs (Ned) BMC Racing TeamRow 98 - Cell 2
100Kevin Deltombe (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 99 - Cell 2
101Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Team SkyRow 100 - Cell 2
102Adrian Kurek (Pol) CCC Sprandi PolkowiceRow 101 - Cell 2
103Jonas Koch (Ger) CCC Sprandi PolkowiceRow 102 - Cell 2
104Michal Paluta (Pol) CCC Sprandi PolkowiceRow 103 - Cell 2
105Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Quick-Step FloorsRow 104 - Cell 2
106Brendan Canty (Aus) Cannondale-DrapacRow 105 - Cell 2
107Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Bardiani - CSFRow 106 - Cell 2
108Guillaume Martin (Fra) Wanty - Groupe GobertRow 107 - Cell 2
109Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team SunwebRow 108 - Cell 2
110Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty - Groupe GobertRow 109 - Cell 2
111Axel Domont (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 110 - Cell 2
112Timo Roosen (Ned) Team LottoNl-JumboRow 111 - Cell 2
113Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 112 - Cell 2
114Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) AG2R La MondialeRow 113 - Cell 2
115Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) Movistar TeamRow 114 - Cell 2
116Nikita Stalnov (Kaz) Astana Pro TeamRow 115 - Cell 2
117Arnaud Courteille (Fra) FDJRow 116 - Cell 2
118Imanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 117 - Cell 2
119Rory Sutherland (Aus) Movistar TeamRow 118 - Cell 2
120Oscar Riesebeek (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse LoterijRow 119 - Cell 2
121Johann Van Zyl (RSA) Dimension DataRow 120 - Cell 2
122Aime De Gendt (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 121 - Cell 2
123Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Wanty - Groupe GobertRow 122 - Cell 2
124Mathew Hayman (Aus) Orica-ScottRow 123 - Cell 2
125Toms Skujins (Lat) Cannondale-DrapacRow 124 - Cell 2
126Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Orica-ScottRow 125 - Cell 2
127Gregor Mühlberger (Aut) Bora-HansgroheRow 126 - Cell 2
DNFEnrico Gasparotto (Ita) Bahrain-MeridaRow 127 - Cell 2
DNFYukiya Arashiro (Jpn) Bahrain-MeridaRow 128 - Cell 2
DNFMeiyin Wang (Chn) Bahrain-MeridaRow 129 - Cell 2
DNFIvan Garcia Cortina (Spa) Bahrain-MeridaRow 130 - Cell 2
DNFOwain Doull (GBr) Team SkyRow 131 - Cell 2
DNFLukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Team SkyRow 132 - Cell 2
DNFDanny Van Poppel (Ned) Team SkyRow 133 - Cell 2
DNFZdenek Štybar (Cze) Quick-Step FloorsRow 134 - Cell 2
DNFDaniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step FloorsRow 135 - Cell 2
DNFMarc Soler Gimenez (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 136 - Cell 2
DNFMichael Hepburn (Aus) Orica-ScottRow 137 - Cell 2
DNFSimon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-ScottRow 138 - Cell 2
DNFJens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-ScottRow 139 - Cell 2
DNFAlbert Timmer (Ned) Team SunwebRow 140 - Cell 2
DNFRemy Mertz (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 141 - Cell 2
DNFBart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 142 - Cell 2
DNFDaniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing TeamRow 143 - Cell 2
DNFLars Boom (Ned) Team LottoNl-JumboRow 144 - Cell 2
DNFErik Baska (Svk) Bora-HansgroheRow 145 - Cell 2
DNFMarcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora-HansgroheRow 146 - Cell 2
DNFChristoph Pfingsten (Ger) Bora-HansgroheRow 147 - Cell 2
DNFMichael Schwarzmann (Ger) Bora-HansgroheRow 148 - Cell 2
DNFFumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) Trek-SegafredoRow 149 - Cell 2
DNFGregory Daniel (USA) Trek-SegafredoRow 150 - Cell 2
DNFJesus Hernandez Blazquez (Spa) Trek-SegafredoRow 151 - Cell 2
DNFEdward Theuns (Bel) Trek-SegafredoRow 152 - Cell 2
DNFOscar Gatto (Ita) Astana Pro TeamRow 153 - Cell 2
DNFAndrey Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro TeamRow 154 - Cell 2
DNFLaurens De Vreese (Bel) Astana Pro TeamRow 155 - Cell 2
DNFAlexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro TeamRow 156 - Cell 2
DNFMatti Breschel (Den) Astana Pro TeamRow 157 - Cell 2
DNFJenthe Biermans (Bel) Katusha-AlpecinRow 158 - Cell 2
DNFMarco Mathis (Ger) Katusha-AlpecinRow 159 - Cell 2
DNFBaptiste Planckaert (Bel) Katusha-AlpecinRow 160 - Cell 2
DNFAlexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 161 - Cell 2
DNFJulien Duval (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 162 - Cell 2
DNFQuentin Jauregui (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 163 - Cell 2
DNFOdd Christian Eiking (Nor) FDJRow 164 - Cell 2
DNFCedric Pineau (Fra) FDJRow 165 - Cell 2
DNFMatteo Bono (Ita) Team UAE EmiratesRow 166 - Cell 2
DNFMarco Marcato (Ita) Team UAE EmiratesRow 167 - Cell 2
DNFBen Swigt (GBr) Team UAE EmiratesRow 168 - Cell 2
DNFAlberto Bettiol (Ita) Cannondale-DrapacRow 169 - Cell 2
DNFBenjamin King (USA) Dimension DataRow 170 - Cell 2
DNFYoucef Reguigui (Alg) Dimension DataRow 171 - Cell 2
DNFPreben Van Hecke (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 172 - Cell 2
DNFBenjamin Declercq (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 173 - Cell 2
DNFJens Wallays (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 174 - Cell 2
DNFKenneth Van Rooy (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 175 - Cell 2
DNFTim Ariesen (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse LoterijRow 176 - Cell 2
DNFMartijn Tusveld (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse LoterijRow 177 - Cell 2
DNFTaco Van Der Hoorn (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse LoterijRow 178 - Cell 2
DNFMarco Minnaard (Ned) Wanty - Groupe GobertRow 179 - Cell 2
DNFEnrico Barbin (Ita) Bardiani - CSFRow 180 - Cell 2
DNFNicola Boem (Ita) Bardiani - CSFRow 181 - Cell 2
DNFMirco Maestri (Ita) Bardiani - CSFRow 182 - Cell 2
DNFMarco Maronese (Ita) Bardiani - CSFRow 183 - Cell 2
DNFVincenzo Albanese (Ita) Bardiani - CSFRow 184 - Cell 2
DNFPaolo Simion (Ita) Bardiani - CSFRow 185 - Cell 2
DNFMaciej Paterski (Pol) CCC Sprandi PolkowiceRow 186 - Cell 2
DNFFrantišek Sisr (Cze) CCC Sprandi PolkowiceRow 187 - Cell 2
DNFBryan Coquard (Fra) Direct EnergieRow 188 - Cell 2
DNFTony Hurel (Fra) Direct EnergieRow 189 - Cell 2

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