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Amstel Gold 2017: Philippe Gilbert does it again

Martin James
16 Apr 2017

Gilbert outsprints Sky's Michal Kwiatkowski for his fourth Amstel Gold success

Belgian champion Philippe Gilbert continued his sensational start to 2017 by claiming victory in the 52nd edition of Amstel Gold, his fourth win at the event.

Gilbert, riding for Quick-Step Floors, outsprinted Team Sky's Michal Kwiatkowski to the line after the pair had slipped clear of a small group of riders on the final climb of the day, the Bemelerberg.

Switzerland's Michael Albasini of Orica-Scott finished third 10 seconds later, outsprinting Dimension Data's Nathan Haas of Australia and Spanish champion Jose Rojas of Movistar.

It continues Gilbert's rich vein of form in 2017, which has already seen him win the Tour of Flanders and Three Days of De Panne, and finish second at E3 Harelbeke and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

BMC's Greg van Avermaet, the pre-race favourite and Paris-Roubaix winner, wasn't able to go with the key moves of the race earlier on the Kruisberg and Keutenberg, and finished in what was left of the main field just over a minute down.

Race organisers had shaken up the Amstel Gold route for 2017, with the finish no longer coming straight after the final ascent of the Cauberg.

The idea was to encourage more open racing in the final hour of the race instead of the main players keeping everything in hand for the final.

It certainly worked.

12-man break

The initial action was dominated by a 12-man break that came together in the first half hour and stayed clear until around the 200km mark.

In the group was 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).

The gap grew to around eight minutes before Van Avermaet's BMC squad took matters in hand and started to reel the break in again.

With the gap having been cut to under a minute, Grellier made a solo bid for glory, and survived on his own over the top of the Gulperberg with 44km to go before being reeled in.

That brought the field back together ahead of a quartet of tough climbs that looked to separate the contenders from the also-rans: the Kruisberg, Eyserbosweg, Fromberg and Keutenberg.

Tiesj Benoot was the first to test his luck, the Lotto Soudal rider going clear as the steeper gradients of the Kruisberg took hold. 

Tellingly it was Gilbert who was first onto his wheel, followed by Sky's Sergio Henao but Van Avermaet missed the move.

With the climbs of the Eyserbosweg and the Fromberg following in quick succession, it was a struggle to get any kind of organised pursuit going.

Gilbert and co arrived at the brutally steep Keutenberg still with around a 15-second advantage, and that was close enough for Van Avermaet, Sky's Michal Kwiatkowski and Movistar's Alejandro Valverde to try and make their way across.

Team Sky double

But Kwiatkowski was the only one able to make contact, joining teammate Henao to give Team Sky two riders in the lead group.

The remainder of the group comprised Gilbert, Michael Albasini (Orica-Scott), Nathan Haas (Dimension Data), Jose Rojas (Movistar) and Jon Izaguerre (Bahrain Merida).

As the dust settled ahead of the final ride up the Cauberg with 17km to go, the lead group of seven were left defending a 20-second gap to a similarly sized chase group containing Van Avermaet and Valverde.

But with several passengers also in the group unwilling to work against teammates in the front group, the gap had widened to 30 seconds by the bottom of the Cauberg and 40 seconds by the top.

The final climb of the day, the Bemelerberg, immediately saw fireworks from Kwiatkowski, who made a big push which was quickly covered by Gilbert.

Then it was Gilbert himself who had a go in a move that saw clear daylight opening up between the pair and their erstwhile companions.

From there it was simply a question of which of these former winners, former world champions and 2017 Monument winners would prevail.

Kwiatkowski was the first to go in the sprint for the line, coming around Gilbert and opening what looked like a race-winning advantage.

But with the uphill finish also being into a block headwind, Gilbert was able to come again and in the end was a comfortable winner.