Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) took a fourth career victory at the 2017 Amstel Gold Race, beating another former winner Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) in a two-up sprint for the line.
The pair had broken away from a leading group of seven riders on the final climb of the Bemelerberg, with none of the following riders Sergio Henao (Team Sky), Ion Izaguirre (Bahrain-Merida), Michael Albasini (Orica-Scott), José Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) and Nathan Haas (Dimension Data) able to bridge the gap to join them.
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The pair quickly gained 15 seconds with around 5km to ride, and worked well together until the final kilometre when they began to watch each other for the final sprint.
Gilbert, who has already had a storming season after taking victory in the Tour of Flanders, lead through much of the final kilometre with Milan-San Remo winner Kwiatkowski on his wheel.
But with a slight uphill drag and a headwind to the line, Kwiatkowski decided he would need to go early and launched his sprint from around 200 metres out.
That gave Gilbert enough time to jump on to the Pole’s wheel and wait until the final 50 metres where he came round him and jumped ahead to take victory on the line.
Belgian champion Gilbert is now just one ride behind record holder Jan Raas for the most wins at Amstel, having won the race in 2010, 2011, 2014 and 2017.
How it happened
The 264.6km day kicked off with a 12-man break that got up the road fairly early on.
Lars Boom (LottoNL-Jumbo), Stijn Vandenbergh (AG2R-La Mondiale), Mads Wurtz Schmidt (Katusha-Alpecin), Tim Ariesen (Roompot), Nikita Stalnov (Astana), Michal Paluta (CCC Sprandi Polkowice), Brendan Canty (Cannondale-Drapac), Johann Van Zyl (Dimension Data), Kenneth Van Rooy (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Pieter Van Speybrouck (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Vincenzo Albanese (Bardiani-CSF), Fabien Grellier (Direct Energie) managed to establish a maximum gap of around eight minutes on the peloton before it began to come down.
They still held over three minutes with 80km left in the day, but early impetus from Greg Van Avermaet’s BMC teammates brought the quickly down over the next 30km, and much of the breakaway was brought back by 50km remaining.
Several riders attempted to stay away, but nothing was sticking, with decisive attacks likely to come on the seventh from last climb of the day, the Kruisberg.
Lotto-Soudal’s Tiesj Benoot was the first to strike out on the climb, followed by Gilbert, with Henao working hard for his leader Kwiatkowski to make sure Sky were in the front group.
16 April 2017
52nd Amstel Gold Race
Photo : Yuzuru SUNADA
Benoot was soon dropped, and eventually those attacks settled into a group of seven riders, with LottoNL-Jumbo’s Bart Jan Lindeman joining six of those who would make up the final group that Gilbert and Kwiatkoswki attacked from.
There were notable absences in Kwiatkoswki, Van Avermaet and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who all failed to make it into the group that got away with 40km or so to go.
Van Avermaet, Valverde and Kwiatkowski all began to chase towards the front group, and when they hit the steep slopes of the Keutenberg climb, Kwiatkowski was the only one to be able to bridge the circa 15 second gap to the front six, with Lindeman dropped.
A seven-man group then formed behind to chase on with Van Avermaet and Valverde there, but the gap to the front grew constantly, and with 20km remaining, there was 30 seconds between the front two groups and another 30 to the peloton further back.
There were a number of attacks from the second group, but no-one was able to reduce the gap, and it was clear the winner was going to come from the front seven.
With one more ascent up the race’s former famous finishing climb the Cauberg, it was onto to one more circuit towards the finish where Gilbert and Kwiatkowski were able to make their decisive attacks and contest the finish.
Amstel Gold Race 2017 (264.6km)
1 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors, in 6-33-55
2 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky, st
3 Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-Scott, at 10s
4 Nathan Haas (Aus) Dimension Data
5 Jose Rojas (Spa) Movistar
6 Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky, all same time
7 Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida, at 14s
8 Michael Gogl (Aut) Trek-Segafredo, at 1-10
9 Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at 1-11
10 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb, at 1-11