Belgium's Philippe Gilbert capped a superb attack on the 31st and final climb of the Amstel Gold Race to win the Dutch one-day classic for the first time on Sunday.
Gilbert stayed well in contention in the frantic closing stages of the 257.8 km race and timed his late drive to perfection less than 500 metres from the end on the race's famous Cauberg climb.
He came over the finish line with room to spare, ahead of Canada's Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin) and Italian Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) to hand his Omega-Pharma team their first win of the season.
It is Gilbert's fourth career victory in a major one-day classic after late season wins last year in Paris-Tours, which he also won in 2008, and the Tour of Lombardy, and will set the Belgian up for a far bigger challenge in the next seven days.
The Amstel Gold Race is the first of three races known as the 'Ardennes Classics'. The Fleche Wallonne will be held Wednesday while Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the oldest classic in the world, is next Sunday.
Winning Liege has been an aim of Gilbert's in recent years but his best finish so far was fourth in 2009.
Gilbert first attacked a select group of frontrunners 11km from the finish line only to be countered by a quartet - Frank Schleck, Damiano Cunego, Alexandre Kolobnev and reigning champion Serguei Ivanov - that had pulled away from a 30-strong group.
Ivanov, who became the first Russian to win Amstel last year, then attacked on a climb inside the final six kilometres and looked briefly to be distancing his chasers only to be reeled in.
His Katusha team-mate Kolobnev then took over, but he ran out of steam on the steep pitches that feature on the early part of the Cauberg.
After several other late attempts to distance the peloton failed, Gilbert timed his attack to perfection to pull away in convincing fashion.
Becoming the first Belgian to win at Amstel since Flemish-speaking compatriot Johan Museeuw in 1994, Gilbert said: "I much prefer winning a big one-day race like this than having five victories in a smaller stage race."
© AFP 2010
|1 Philippe Gilbert (Bel|Omega Pharma-Lotto)||6:22:54|
|2 Ryder Hesjedal (Can|Garmin - Transitions)||0:00:02|
|3 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita|Astana)|
|4 Bert De Waele (Bel|Landbouwkrediet)||0:00:05|
|5 Roman Kreuziger (Cze|Liquigas-Doimo)|
|6 Damiano Cunego (Ita|Footon-Servetto)|
|7 Frank Schleck (Lux|Team Saxo Bank)||0:00:07|
|8 Marco Marcato (Ita|Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team)||0:00:09|
|9 Karsten Kroon (Ned|BMC Racing Team)||0:00:11|
|10 Chris Horner (USA|Team Radioshack)|
|11 Paul Martens (Ger|Rabobank)|
|12 Sergie Ivanov (Rus|Team Katusha)|
|13 Cadel Evans (Aus|BMC Racing Team)|
|14 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa|Rabobank)||0:00:17|
|15 Eduard Vorganov (Rus|Team Katusha)|
|16 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra|Quick Step)||0:00:19|
|17 Haimar Zubeldia Aguirre (Spa|Euskaltel - Euskadi)||0:00:21|
|18 Andy Schleck (Lux|Team Saxo Bank)||0:00:25|
|19 Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa|Quick Step)||0:00:37|
|20 Jurgen Vandenbroeck (Bel|Omega Pharma-Lotto)||0:00:46|
For full results, report and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com.