Philippe Gilbert: ‘Amstel wins means a lot’

Philippe Gilbert looks to be back on the form that saw him win the World Championships in 2012

Philippe Gilbert won the Amstel Gold Race today in nearly a carbon copy move to the 2012 World Championships. Team BMC’s Belgian followed his team-mate Samuel Sánchez’s attack on the Cauberg with a solo move at 2.5 kilometres out.

“This is not the worlds, which has a different course and higher level, but the riders are strong and the victory means a lot,” Gilbert said. “I knew the route well. We planned for Samuel to attack and for me to follow it on the inside line of the corner.”

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He rode solo for just over two kilometres and won the race for the third time by five seconds. Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol) and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) placed second and third.

Vanendert, Simon Gerrans, Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) fought to recover behind but their cooperation was too little and Gilbert’s attack was too much.

“Philippe came straight past me. He was going too strong for me today,” Gerrans said. “We were looking at each other just a little bit, and then the gap got too big to close.”

Gilbert won the Belgian classic Brabantse Pijl on Wednesday. The race win marked his first of the 2014 season and indicated he was ready for the Ardennes Classics ahead. Last year, wearing the rainbow jersey he could only manage a fifth in Amstel Gold. His first win did not come until the end of his reign at the Vuelta a España.

“I had a really good winter, I trained a lot. I really focused on my training after a hard year. I accepted no invitations to events, it I was just training and training,” Gilbert said.

“We could see from the beginning of the season that it worked. I lost weight, I was lighter than ever, and we know that the weight is really the riders’ enemy. I was able to defeat that enemy. That was really important.”

The last time Gilbert won Amstel Gold in 2011, he continued to claim the final two Ardennes Classics: Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He became only the second rider in history to win the Ardennes triple behind Davide Rebellin in 2004.

Sky relied on Ben Swift, Geraint Thomas and Edvald Boasson Hagen. Thomas crashed out after hitting another rider that stopped to urinate. Boasson Hagen placed 39th and Swift arrived about five minutes later but the organiser did not have him classified in its results.

“I knew on the Cauberg earlier in the race that I couldn’t do it,” Swift said. “These one day races are just different beasts than the stage races.”

Amstel Gold Race 2014 photo gallery

Images from the 2014 edition of Amstel Gold Race, won by Philippe Gilbert. Photos by Graham Watson