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Gilbert wins third Amstel Gold Race

Only four days after taking the Brabantse Pijl spoils, Philippe Gilbert (Belgium/BMC) was victorious in Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race in the Limburg region of the Netherlands, winning with a withering attack on the final pass up the Cauberg. In 2012 Gilbert triumphed in the World Championships on the same finale. It is his third Amstel Gold title.

A breakaway formed early to assail the first of 34 hills starting at the 9.5-km mark. Ten riders had 14:30 over the Movistar and Orica-GreenEdge-powered peloton at the first of four passes up the Cauberg and 7:30 by the second pass. Meanwhile, back in the main group one of the favourites, Joaquim Rodriguez (Spain/Katusha) crashed out.

It was escapee attack from Nicola Boem (Italy/Bardiani-CSF) on the steep Gulpenerberg with 47-km to go that animated the race. His foray whittled the break down to six men.

From the main peloton Thomas Voeckler (France/Europcar) bolted on the Kruisberg with 39-km to go, taking five strong riders with him. Up ahead Christophe Riblon (France/Ag2r) and Preben Van Hecke (Belgium/Topsport Vlaanderen) rolled up the Keutenberg as the last remnants of the breakaway with 1:58 over the reinforced Voeckler chase and 2:18 over the peloton.

The race continued over the third pass of the Cauberg with 21-km to go, the Voeckler chase just dangling off the front of the reduced, Omega Pharma-QuickStep-led peloton and the intrepid duo beating on ahead.

Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark/Astana) and Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium/BMC) lit out from the chase group before it was swallowed up with 13-km to go and two climbs left. Before the penultimate climb, the Bemelerberg, the leading duo became a quartet. However, with 7-km to go, the race was all together.

Pieter Weening (The Netherlands/Orica-GreenEdge) put in a strong dig before the final Cauberg ascent with Marcus Burghardt (Germany/BMC) ushering Gilbert to the front of the bunch. Then Gilbert’s teammate Sammy Sanchez attacked on the Cauberg proper, forcing a response from Simon Gerrans (Australia/Orica-GreenEdge), Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland/Omega Pharma) and Alejandro Valverde (Spain/Movistar). But Gilbert accelerated on the left side of the road with intent and crested the hill alone.

With a tailwind, Gilbert powered the final 1.8-km to victory. Jelle Vanendert (Belgium/Lotto-Belisol) was runner-up again (he came second to Enrico Gasparotto (Italy/Astana in 2012) and Gerrans third.

Gilbert looks well-poised for the Fleche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège next week.

Sole Canadian representative Christian Meier of Orica-GreenEdge was one of 69 racers who did not finish.