He bided his time over the first 33 climbs and 249km but at the base of the Cauberg with 3km to go Philippe Gilbert gave a vicious kick to win Amstel Gold for the third time.
PhilGil on fire!
On Wednesday he fired the warning shot by winning Brabantse Pijl – PhilGil was back and he meant business. Today he fired a shot straight into the plans of such hopefuls as Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) – and he did it on the final ascent of the Cauberg, where he won the 2012 World Championships road race.
Gilbert’s BMC teammates were key to his victory. Greg van Avermaet played his part to perfection. He went in a break full of strong men (Stybar, Voeckler, and Fuglsang, among others) at 35km to go, keeping the pace high enough to whittle down the main peloton but not so high that his teammates couldn’t reel them in at the appropriate time. That man is a beast.
Then on the final circuit at the base of the Cauberg, newest BMC signing Samu Sanchez took a flyer off the front to draw the chase by Orica-GreenEDGE. They took the bait, Gilbert timed his move to perfection and he had a gap before anyone knew what had happened. For the next 3km, it was like last year’s disappointments never happened as he crossed the finish line solo and smiling. Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol) and Gerrans were second and third respectively.
Although BMC’s cobbled classics season couldn’t be deemed a roaring success, it looks like the Ardennes are going to be a different story altogether.
Crashes and abandons
The narrow country roads, the road furniture and the pressure to get to the front at the base of critical climbs always meant that crashes were inevitable. This year, they were abandoning left, right and centre – some with mechanicals, some with crash injuries.
Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) was the worst off after a hard crash necessitating a hospital visit for x-rays and observation for concussion. Word has it there are no broken bones but his participation at Fleche on Wednesday is in jeopardy. Andy Schleck (Trek) also went down in that crash and abandoned not long after with knee problems.
Geraint Thomas (Sky), who seems to be magnetically attracted to the ground, crashed due to an ill-timed comfort break by another rider. He abandoned, as did Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp), who may have been suffering from hay fever.
Race in numbers
2 – This is the second time Philippe Gilbert has won both Amstel Gold and the Ardennes warm-up Brabantse Pijl in the same year. In 2011, he then went on to win Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege too.
69 – The number of DNFs. Movistar lost six riders out of eight, as did Sky.
0.5 – In pints, the amount of Amstel Gold the winner and runners-up get to quaff on the podium.
1. Philippe Gilbert (BMC) 6:25:57
2. Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Belisol) +0:05
3. Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) +0:06
4. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) same time
5. Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) s/t
6. Simon Geschke (Giant-Shimano) +0:10
7. Bauke Mollema (Belkin) s/t
8. Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) s/t
9. Daniel Moreno (Katusha) s/t
10. Yukiya Arashiro (Europcar) +0:12
Header image: Danielle Haex