Philippe Gilbert's renaissance continued Sunday as the Belgian national champion won a two-up sprint to claim a fourth victory in the Amstel Gold Race in Holland.
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 metres left.
"He surprised me a little in the sprint, but it was a headwind so I didn't panic, and I saw I was getting closer and closer, and it was perfect for me in the end," said Gilbert.
Michael Albasini won the dash for third place.
An early break from a group of a dozen riders highlighted the first hours of the race on the rolling hills of Limburg province but the final battle shaped up with 40 kilometres 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 kilometres remaining, Kwiatkowski led the seven-man group as they tackled the third and final 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 kilometre ascent at an average gradient of 5.8 per cent - was moved up in this year's route as organisers 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-man breakaway 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.
"It was a hard final," Gilbert said. "All of us deserved the win today because we really worked together ... In the end with Kwiato we went hard, I saw the guys behind were on the limit. I was too but if you can find one or two percent more, it makes the difference. I told him: 'We ride until the last kilometer and the best man wins.' That's the best deal you can make."
Amstel Gold Race preview
What is this race and why should I care about it?
Following fast in the wheels of what has been a memorable cobbled classics campaign, the most prestigious one-day road race in Holland – and only Dutch event in the WorldTour calendar – traditionally offers a different type of rider opportunities to those that usually prevail on the pavé at the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix. Amstel Gold is a race that, ordinarily, suits the puncheurs, those riders able to cope with the short sharp climbs common to the area.
However, race organisers have tweaked the route in the hope of making a more exciting finale to the race which, in theory, opens up the race to not only puncheurs but also to the fastmen usually associated with races such as Flanders or even Milan-Sanremo. Either way, Amstel Gold, the 2017 version of the race at least, is a difficult race to call given the new finish.
The Amstel Gold this year features 35 recognised climbs, including three ascents of the Cauberg which, though short, ramps up to a maximum gradient of 14 per cent.
Somewhat confusingly Amstel Gold, despite being outside the Ardennes region, is often considered to be part of the triumvirate of races, alongside La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, that form the prestigious Ardennes classics.
Just two riders – Italy's Davide Rebellin (2004) and Philippe Gilbert of Belgium (2011) – have ever won all three in the same season and with the latter enjoying something of a renaissance following his transfer to Quick-Step Floors from BMC Racing will be hoping to add a fourth Amstel Gold to his palmarès, though can expect stern examinations from the likes of Michal Kwiatkowski, Alejandro Valverde, last year's winner Enrico Gasparotto and man of the moment Greg van Avermaet.
When is the Amstel Gold Race?
The 16th WorldTour race of the year – and its 10th one-day race following the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Strade Bianche, Milan-Sanremo, Dwars door Vlaanderen, E3 Harelbeke, Ghent-Wevelgem in Flanders Field, Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix – gets under way at 10.20am (9.20am BST) on Sunday April 16, 2017.
How long is this year's race?
The Amstel Gold Race is 264.6 kilometres long.
How can I watch this year's race?
Those with subscriptions to Eurosport are in luck, their coverage of the race runs from 1pm through to the race's conclusion at around 4pm.
What's in it for the winner?
The winner will trouser a cheque – or maybe a bank transfer – to the value of €16,000 while the second-placed rider gets €8,000 and the rider on the third step of the podium €4,000. Each rider in the top 20 will take home something, even if it's only €400. Here's the breakdown . . .
With Amstel Gold Race being a WorldTour event, there will also be points on offer that will go towards a riders' overall rankings . . .
What teams will ride Amstel Gold Race?
As is the case with all WorldTour races, each of the 18 teams that make up the top-flight of professional cycling – Ag2r-La Mondiale, Astana, Bahrain-Merida, BMC Racing, Bora-Hansgrohe, Cannondale-Drapac, Dimension Data, FDJ, Katusha-Alpecin, Lotto–Soudal, Lotto NL-Jumbo, Movistar, Orica-Scott, Quick-Step Floors, Team Sky, Trek-Segafredo, Sunweb and UAE Team Emirates – receive an invite.
In addition to all WorldTour teams, race organisers have offered six teams wildcard places with Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise, Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij, Wanty-Groupe Gobert, Bardiani-CSF, CCC Sprandi Polkowice and Direct Énergie all accepting their invitations.
Who are Telegraph Sport's top 10 picks?
Who are you picking for the win?
What does the provisional startlist look like?
Ag2r-La Mondiale: Jan Bakelants (Bel), Mikaël Cherel (Fra), Axel Domont (Fra), Julien Duval (Fra), Cyril Gautier (Fra), Alexis Gougeard (Fra), Oliver Naesen (Bel), Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel).
Astana: Matti Breschel (Den), Laurens de Vreese (Bel), Jakob Fuglsang (Den), Oscar Gatto (Ita), Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz), Nikita Stalnov (Kaz), Michael Valgren (Den), Andrey Zeits (Kaz).
Bahrain-Merida: Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn), Grega Bole (Slo), Sonny Colbrelli (Ita), Ivan Garcia Cortina (Spa, neo-pro), Enrico Gasparotto (Ita), Ion Izagirre (Spa), Wang Meiyin (Chn), Giovanni Visconti (Ita).
BMC Racing: Alessandro De Marchi (Ita), Silvan Dillier (Swi), Floris Gerts (Hol, neo-pro), Ben Hermans (Bel), Daniel Oss (Ita), Dylan Teuns (Bel), Greg van Avermaet (Bel), Loïc Vliegen (Bel).
Bora-Hansgrohe: Erik Baska (Svk, neo-pro), Cesare Benedetti (Ita), Marcus Burghardt (Ger), Patrick Konrad (Aut), Jay McCarthy (Aus), Gregor Mühlberger (Aut, neo-pro), Christoph Pfingsten (Ger), Michael Schwarzmann (Ger).
Cannondale-Drapac: Alberto Bettiol (Ita), Brendan Canty (Aus), Simon Clarke (Aus), Alex Howes (US), Sebastian Langeveld (Hol), Toms Skujins (Lat, neo-pro), Tom-Jelte Slagter (Hol), Dylan van Baarle (Hol).
Dimension Data: Nathan Haas (Aus), Ben King (US), Serge Pauwels (Bel), Jacques Janse van Rensburg (SA), Youcef Reguigui (Alg), Kristian Sbaragli (Ita), Johann van Zyl (SA), Jaco Venter (SA).
FDJ: Arnaud Courteille (Fra), Odd Christian Eiking (Nor, neo-pro), Rudy Molard (Fra), Cédric Pineau (Fra), Kévin Reza (Fra), Anthony Roux (Fra), Benoît Vaugrenard (Fra), Arthur Vichot (Fra).
Katusha-Alpecin: Jenthe Biermans (Bel, neo-pro), Vyacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus), Maurits Lammertink (Hol), Marco Mathis (Ger, neo-pro), Baptiste Planckaert (Bel), Mads Wurtz Schmid (Den, neo-pro), Ángel Vicioso (Spa), Rick Zabel (Ger).
Lotto–Soudal: Tiesj Benoot (Bel), Sean De Bie (Bel), Bart de Clercq (Bel), Tomasz Marczynski (Pol), Rémy Mertz (Bel, neo-pro), Tosh Van der Sande (Bel), Jelle Vanendert (Bel), Tim Wellens (Bel).
Lotto NL-Jumbo: Enrico Battaglin (Ita), Lars Boom (Hol), Floris De Tier (Bel), Bert-Jan Lindeman (Hol), Juan José Lobato (Spa), Paul Martens (Ger), Timo Roosen (Hol), Bram Tankink (Hol).
Movistar: Carlos Betancur (Col), Imanol Erviti (Spa), Jesús Herrada (Spa), Daniel Moreno (Spa), José Joaquín Rojas (Spa), Marc Soler (Spa), Rory Sutherland (Aus), Alejandro Valverde (Spa).
Orica-Scott: Michael Albasini (Swi), Simon Gerrans (Aus), Mathew Hayman (Aus), Michael Hepburn (Aus), Daryl Impey (SA), Christopher Juul Jensen (Den), Jens Keukeleire (Bel), Roman Kreuziger (Cze).
Quick-Step Floors: Gianluca Brambilla (Ita), Dries Devenyns (Bel), Philippe Gilbert (Bel), Bob Jungels (Lux), Dan Martin (Irl), Maximilian Schachmann (Ger), Zdenek Stybar (Cze), Petr Vakoc (Cze).
Team Sky: Owain Doull (GB, neo-pro), Tao Geoghegan Hart (GB, neo-pro), Michal Golas (Pol), Sebastian Henao (Col), Sergio Henao (Col), Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol), Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol), Danny van Poppel (Hol).
Trek-Segafredo: Fumiyuki Beppu (Jap), Andre Cardoso (Por), Gregory Daniel (US, neo-pro), Fabio Felline (Ita), Michael Gogl (Aut), Ruben Guerreiro (Por, neo-pro), Jesús Hernández (Spa), Edward Theuns (Bel).
Sunweb: Warren Barguil (Fra), Roy Curvers (Hol), Simon Geschke (Ger), Wilco Kelderman (Hol), Michael Matthews (Aus), Sam Oomen (Hol, neo-pro), Georg Preidler (Aut), Albert Timmer (Hol).
UAE Team Emirates: Matteo Bono (Ita), Rui Costa (Por), Marco Marcato (Ita), Matej Mohoric (Slo), Manuele Mori (Ita), Simone Petilli (Ita, neo-pro), Ben Swift (GB), Diego Ulissi (Ita).
Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise: Preben Van Hecke (Bel), Benjamin Declercq (Bel), Kevin Deltombe (Bel), Aimé De Gendt (Bel), Kenneth Van Rooy (Bel), Dries Van Gestel (Bel), Thomas Sprengers (Bel), Eliot Lietaer (Bel).
Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij: Tim Ariesen (Hol), Martijn Budding (Hol), Pim Ligthart (Hol), Jeroen Meijers (Hol), Oscar Riesebeek (Hol), Martijn Tusveld (Hol), Taco van der Hoorn (Hol), Nick van der Lijke (Hol).
Wanty-Groupe Gobert: Jérôme Baugnies (Bel), Thomas Degand (Bel), Xandro Meurisse (Bel), Guillaume Martin (Fra), Marco Minnaard (Hol), Dion Smith (NZ), Andrea Pasqualon (Ita), Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel).
Bardiani-CSF: Vincenzo Albanese (Ita), Enrico Barbin (Ita), Nicola Boem (Ita), Giulio Ciccone (Ita), Mirco Maestri (Ita), Marco Maronese (Ita), Lorenzo Rota (Ita), Paolo Simion (Ita).
CCC Sprandi Polkowice: Maciej Paterski (Pol), Jonas Koch (Ger), Jakub Kaczmarek (Pol), Adrian Kurek (Pol), Michal Paluta (Pol), Simone Ponzi (Pol), Frantisek Sisr (Cze), Jan Tratnik (Slo).
Direct Énergie: Bryan Coquard (Fra), Lilian Calmejane (Fra), Fabien Grellier (Fra), Jonathan Hivert (Fra), Tony Hurel (Fra), Paul Ourselin (Fra), Romain Sicard (Fra), Angelo Tulik (Fra).