Gilbert sprints to Amstel Gold victory

Eurosport - Sun, 18 Apr 16:02:00 2010

Philippe Gilbert blew the field away in a bunch sprint on the Cauberg to win his first Amstel Gold Race.

2010 Philippe Gilbert (Omega) - 0

After a flurry of attacks in the final 10 kilometres from the likes of defending champion Serguei Ivanov and Alexandre Kolobnev (both Katusha) as well as Gilbert himself had been neutralised, the Omega Pharma-Lotto rider moved out from the wheel of compatriot Bert de Waele (Landouwkredit) and launched a sprint with 400 metres to go that saw him surge clear of the pack.

Garmin's Ryder Hesjedal took second, with Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) completing the podium.

For the vast majority of the 257 kilometres and 31 hills, the breakaway group of Rafael Valls (Footon-Servetto), Staff Scheirlnckx (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Peter Wrolich (Milram), Sebastien Delfosse (Crédit Agricole), Thierry Hupond (Skil-Shimano), Steven Van Vooren (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Arnoud Van Green (Vacansoleil) dictated the tempo of the race, while the peloton were content to keep them on a leash of six minutes.

Dirk Bellemakers (Landbouwkredit), Albert Timmer (Skil-Shimano) and Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen) counter-attacked with 65 kilometres to go, prompting the Rabobank and Saxo Bank squads at the head of the peloton to up their tempo.

The two groups were brought back in with 45 and 35 kilometres respectively, before Rob Ruygh of Vacansoleil broke clear on the Kruisberg with 22 kilometres remaining. Moments later, Andy Schleck kicked off the real fireworks with a big attack on the Eyserbosweg.

Philippe Gilbert was the first to react after an initial stand-off among Schleck's rivals, and the Belgian bridged the gap impressively, bringing a clutch of other favourites in his slipstream, though without the struggling Robert Gesink.

After two big attacks from Ivanov, Gilbert gained a few seconds with an attack, though the quartet of Ivanov, Frank Schleck, Damiano Cunego and Kolobnev co-operated well to ensure the Belgian did not disappear up the road, and was gradually reeled back in.

With two men in the lead group, Katusha sent Kolobnev up the road with a do-or-die effort, and Ivanov content to let the others do the chasing. By this stage the constant attacks in the lead group had allowed the peloton to close in though, and the pack, headed by a rejuvenated Gesink, caught Kolobnev on the foot of the Cauberg, the race's final climb.

Carlos Barredo briefly moved clear, though ran out of steam with just under half a kilometre remaining, and was passed by de Waele. GIlbert was placed perfectly in his compatriot's wheel, and with 400 metres showed his class, blazing away from his rivals to win by a clear 20 metres.

Michael FitzGerald / Eurosport

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