Amstel Gold Race: Gilbert for three

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April 21st, ’14.  There was nothing that anyone could do, once Philippe Gilbert of BMC Racing decided he was going he was gone.  The Belgian former world champion attacked early on the final climb of the Cauberg and sailed away from all comers everywhere.

April 21st, ’14.  There was nothing that anyone could do, once Philippe Gilbert of BMC Racing decided he was going he was gone.  The Belgian former world champion attacked early on the final climb of the Cauberg and sailed away from all comers everywhere.  It was a dominant display as Gilbert completed a brilliant race by BMC Racing.  With 3km remaining in the 49th edition of the event, Gilbert’s acceleration was enough to best a worn down field that still contained the creme of the crop.  Lotto Belisol’s Jelle Vanendert put in a brilliant turn of speed at the end to get a slight advantage over the chasers; while Simon Gerrans of Orica GreenEDGE took his third-third in the race ahead of Alejandro Valverde of Movistar and Michael Kwiatkowski of Omega Pharma-Quick Step.

251.8km and 34 climbs were to be covered by the field as it left Maastricht at around 10.15am.  Key to the race was the climb of the Cauberg which would be covered no less than four times, giving the fans a treat but also giving the riders opportunities a plenty to size each other up and test the legs in the run up to the final ascent that would end just 1.8km from the finish line.  A breakaway group of ten made it their business to get out ahead early, and they quickly built a healthy lead over the rather content peloton.  Alexey Lutsenko of Astana, Christophe Riblon of AG2R La Mondiale, Matej Mohoric of Cannondale, Rory Sutherland of Tinkoff-Saxo, Pim Lithgart of Lotto Belisol, Nicola Boem of Bardiani CSF, Manuel Belletti of Androni Venezuela, James Vanlandschoot of Wanty Groupe Gobert, Pirmin Lang of IAM Cycling and Preben Van Hecke of Topsport Vlaanderen were the men who made it clear and built a lead of over 11mins inside the first 40km.  In fact the peloton – led by BMC Racing – looked to be content to leave them to it, with the break gaining a lead that went up to 14.41mins by the first ascent of the Cauberg.

While the teams of Tinkoff-Saxo, AG2R La Mondiale and Astana were among those who weren’t expected to chase – with their riders’ in the breakaway – Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Katusha were on hand to lend BMC assistance in keeping the gap manageable.  Katusha’s presence on the front, however, was not enough to stop their key man from getting into trouble.  Sadly Joaquim Rodriguez and Andy Schleck of Trek Factory Racing were both forced out of the race due to damage sustained by a crash.  Also to drop out later on were Schleck’s teammate Haimar Zubeldia and Liege-Bastogne-Liege defending champion Daniel Martin of Garmin-Sharp.

While the break averaged 40.3kph for the first 3 hours of racing the gap to the peloton continued to shrink.  As the race dipped beneath the 100km to go mark Orica GreenEDGE, Movistar and Astana began to lend their weight to the front of proceedings; as did Omega Pharma-Quick Step to bring the break’s lead to 5.39mins with less than 70km to go.  Up in the breakaway unity finally dispersed with just under 50km remaining.  Up the climb of the Gulpenerberg Nicola Boem attacked, bringing with him Pim Lithgart, Christophe Riblon, Manuel Belletti, Preben Van Hecke and Alexey Lutsenko.

Next to set the pace in the bunch was GIANT-Shimano, working for Tom Dumoulin, but the excitement from the chasers began with an attack by Europcar’s courageous Frenchman Thomas Voeckler.  With the gap under 3mins between peloton and breakaway Voeckler’s move forced a number of potential race-winners onto his wheel including Tim Wellens of Lotto Belisol, Pieter Weening of Orica GreenEDGE, Jakob Fulgsang of Astana, Greg Van Avermaet of BMC and OPQS’s Zdenek Stybar.  As the first chase group on the road continued to accelerate, the breakaway continued to fragment.  Riblon and Van Hecke led over the penultimate climb of the Cauberg with 1.38mins on the Voeckler group and 2.14mins over the peloton.

Although the catch looked imminent for poor Riblon and Van Hecke, the peloton certainly took their time about it, with Van Avermaet and Giampaolo Caruso of Katusha first joining them at the front.  Finally, with Garmin-Sharp and OPQS forcing the pace, everything was brought back together; in time for the final ascent of the Cauberg.  It was at this point that Orica GreenEDGE played their hand, sending a powerful train to the front of the race and setting a blinding pace; making it very difficult to attack.  But once the gradient kicked up the action began in earnest.

BMC Racing’s Samuel Sanchez was the first to accelerate, lining up his Belgian leader well, and tagging along behind him were Simon Gerrans, Alejandro Valverde and Michal Kwiatkowski.  As Sanchez sat up Gilbert saw it as a time to fly and he stamped on the pedals in much the same fashion that saw him win his world title in 2012.  Despite an initially spirited chase by the young Pole, Kwiatkowski, none could match the Belgian’s power and it quickly became clear that everyone else was racing for second place.  The BMC rider cruised to his third Amstel win in style, leaving a splintered field to fight for the rest.

Afterwards Gilbert said, “This was a particularly emotional win for me, my wife and my kids were here for the first time in two years.  So to win will be something they will never forget.  I have been dreaming of this.”  Regarding Sanchez’ attack early on the Cauberg, Gilbert said, “It was not a surprise for me, but I think it was one for my adversaries.  I only had to wait for the best moment to attack.  And I did that when it was most difficult and hurting for everyone.”

Results:
1st:  Philippe Gilbert (BEL) BMC Racing
2nd:  Jelle Vanendert (BEL) Lotto Belisol
3rd:  Simon Gerrans (AUS) Orica GreenEDGE
4th:  Alejandro Valverde (SPA) Movistar
5th:  Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
6th:  Simon Geschke (GER) Team GIANT-Shimano
7th:  Bauke Mollema (NED) Belkin Pro Cycling
8th:  Enrico Gasparotto (ITA) Astana Pro Team
9th:  Daniel Moreno Fernandez (SPA) Katusha
10th:  Yukiya Arashiro (JPN) Team Europcar

For more results click here.

By:  Ed Wright

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