Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert has won the Amstel Gold Race for the third time, clinching the 49th edition ahead of Jelle Vanendert in second, Simon Gerrans in third and Alejandro Valverde in fourth.
Gilbert attacked in exactly the same place on the Cauberg as when he won his World Championship in 2012, diving to the steeper part of the left hand bend as Gerrans, Valverde and Michal Kwiatkowski had moved to the right hand side, Gilbert’s kick was devastating as he quickly opened a gap on Gerrans and Kwiatkowski and by the top of the Cauberg the result was never in doubt. Gilbert had the benefit of the tailwind to the finish and held on to win by four seconds from Vanendert.
How it unfolded
The 251km Amstel Gold Race got underway under dry and sunny conditions from the start in Maastricht and included last years winner Roman Kreuziger and both triple crown winners Philippe Gilbert and Davide Rebellin.
The early break was initiated by Pim Ligthart right from the start and he was joined by Preben Van Hecke, Alexey Lutsenko, Matej Mohoric, Manuel Belletti, Pirmin Lang, James Van Landschoot and Nicola Boem. Rory Sutherland later bridged across with Christophe Riblon. This group of ten stretched the gap out to fourteen minutes at one point but by 50km to go the gap was down to 3.26.
With 39km to go the break was whittled down to Riblon, Van Hecke and Boem as the other breakaway riders found the pave too tough, back in the Peloton Tommy Voeckler made an attack off the front in an attempt to bridge across to the lead trio. Voeckler was joined by five others including BMC’s Van Avermaet which tactically was a very good move for the BMC team.
With 32km shortly after the 22 percent ramp on the Keutenberg, Nicola Boem lost touch with Riblon and Van Hecke who still had a 2.08 gap on the chasers who by this time had also been joined by Alexandr Kolobnev, Paul Martens and Bjorn Leukemans.
Eventually with 7km to go the peloton lead by Garmin-Sharp and Omega Pharma-QuickStep brought everything back together. Orica-GreenEDGE then took control of the peloton and kept the pace so high that there would be no chance of another escape before the Cauberg.
Notable abandonments to this point had been Joaquim Rodriguez, Andy Schleck and Geraint Thomas who had all suffered crashes with Rodriguez taken to hospital for x-rays. Dan Martin also left the race with knee pain.
As the peloton rounded the left hand bend in Valkenberg to start the Cauberg climb for the final time a huge cheer went up from the crowd, the favorites were all at the front and the Gilbert master class was about to start. Gilbert’s teammate Samuel Sanchez was the first to hit out on the right hand side of the road opening a gap that Kwiatkowski and Simon Gerrans then had to close down, just after those two closed Sanchez down Gilbert launched his decisive attack and opened a large gap, Kwiatkowski responded but wasn’t making any impression on Gilbert’s lead.
Cresting the Cauberg, Valverde and Gerrans caught Kwiatkowski and also brought Vanendert with them. The four chasers looked at one another as if the others should take the lead while Gilbert had enough time to straighten his jersey and celebrate as he crossed the line for his third Amstel Gold Race win.
I went for it at the steepest part and was happy I could hold on to my lead,” Gilbert said. “Is it the same feeling as being world champion? No but I’m really happy winning my third here.
Results 2014 Amstel Gold Race – Top 10
1. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing
2. Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto-Belisol
3. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
4. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar
5. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
6. Simon Geschke (Ger) Giant-Shimano
7. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin
8. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana
9. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha
10. Yukiya Arashiro (Jap) Europcar
Watch the final kilometres
The next race of the Ardennes classics is La Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday 23, April.
Race Report by TBL – The Bike Lane