Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert, competing for BMC Racing who use fi’zi:k saddles, yesterday won the Amstel Gold Race for the third time in his long and distinguished career. The 31-year-old triumphed ahead of fellow Belgian Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Belisol) in second and Australian Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) in third. It completed a memorable week for the 2012 world champion, who won his second Brabantse Pijl (203km semi-classic in Overijse, Belgium) last Wednesday.
‘This was an emotional win for me,’ said Gilbert, who also won Amstel in 2010 and 2011. ‘My wife and kids were here for the first time in two years. So to win something they will never forget… I have been dreaming of this.’
The 250km classic began in Maastricht, Netherlands, before finishing with four circuits of the Cauberg, a 1,200m climb that peaks at a 12% gradient. Dry and sunny conditions greeted the riders – as did the tarmac for Joaquim Rodriguez and Andy Schleck, who pulled out after an early crash.
A 10-man group then broke away and carved out a 15min lead but, with 7km remaining, a pack of about 50 cyclists, including Gilbert, reeled them in. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who’d finish fourth, and Gerrans both unleashed failed attacks. Unlike Gilbert, who left the pack for dead on the final ascent of the Cauberg to secure a memorable descent to victory in 6:25:57.
The 49th edition of the Amstel Gold Race is the first of the three Ardennes Classics with Fleche Wallone and Liege-Bastogne-Liege taking place this Wednesday and Sunday, respectively. Gilbert is one of only three men to have won all three. Whether they’ll match the excitement here remains to be seen.