Philippe Gilbert wins royal sprint to win Amstel Gold Race
VOLKENBURG, Netherlands (AP) Philippe Gilbert's renaissance continued on Sunday as the Belgium champion won a two-man sprint to claim a fourth victory in the Amstel Gold Race classic.
The 34-year-old former world champion, who also won the Tour of Flanders earlier this month, produced a strong final push to catch former winner Michal Kwiatkowski, who launched the sprint with about 300 meters left.
Michael Albasini won the dash for third place.
After an early break from a group of a dozen riders highlighted the first hours of the race on the rolling hills of Limburg province, the final battle shaped up with 40 kilometers to go when Tiesj Benoot attacked on the Kruisberg climb, with Gilbert in his wake. Benoot's efforts were hampered by a mechanical problem and the young Belgian rider was dropped from the leading group.
After former winners Roman Kreuziger and Enrico Gasparotto saw their hopes of victory vanish in a crash, Kwiatkowski managed to join the leaders on the punishing Keutenberg climb with an impressive burst that left Greg Van Avermaet and Alejandro Valverde behind.
With 19 kilometers to go, Kwiatkowski led the seven-man group as they tackled the third and final major climb up the Cauberg hill with a 30-second lead over the main peloton. The tough final climb to the finish up the Cauberg - a 1.5 kilometer ascent at an average gradient of 5.8 percent - was moved up in this year's route as organizers tried to create a more open race. In the past, climbing specialists often waited until the short but steep ascent shortly before the finish line to make their move.
The seven breakaway riders worked well together and resisted the chasing peloton although Jose Joaquin Rojas did not take turns at the front. Kwiatkowski tried a solo move in the Bemelerberg, the last of the 35 climbs in the race, about 5.5 kilometers from the finish, but Gilbert countered his attack. The duo stayed together all the way to the finish where Gilbert proved the stronger.