Enrico Gasparotto (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) added a second Amstel Gold Race victory to his palmarès after taking victory in the 2016 and 51st edition of the Dutch Classic.
The Italian took victory in 2012 with Astana, but rode ahead of Michael Valgren (Tinkoff) on Sunday in the colours of Belgian team Wanty-Groupe Gobert to take an emotional victory after the death of teammate Antoine Demoitié only a few weeks ago.
Gasparotto had made his winning move on the traditional final climb of Amstel Gold, the Cauberg, taking Valgren with him as they chased down lone leader Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), who has led onto the climb with around a 17 second lead.
The pair quickly caught and passed Wellens, who had attacked the main bunch with around 7km to go, but were never really out of the reach of the chasing bunch behind, which contained pre-race favourites such as Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge), Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick Step) and Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida).
But that chase never took hold in earnest as no-one was willing to sacrifice their energy to catch the pair, particularly with Danish rider Valgren pulling hard on the front with Gasparotto behind going into the final kilometre.
So hard did Valgren pull to hold off the pursuers, that he seemingly had no energy left to fight with Gasparotto for the sprint to the line, with the 34-year-old easily moving round the Tinkoff rider to take the victory.
Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani-CSF) took the last step on the podium after beating Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) and Australian Matthews in the sprint.
While Gasparotto had been an outsider at the start of the race, the day’s biggest surprises came through defending champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) – who was dropped on the penultimate ascent of the Cauberg with just under 20km left – and three-time winner Philippe Gilbert (BMC) – dropped at around 30km to go – who were both absent for the finale of the race.
As usual the race had been a war of attrition with its 34 climbs, but the day’s main break of 11 men did a decent job out front of the main bunch despite only really establishing a maximum of five minutes in the early part of the race.
With a number of counter attacks in the mean time, five of those rider still remained on the final circuit of about 20km, including Matteo Bono (Lampre-Merida), Laurens De Vreese (Astana), Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r La Mondiale), Larry Warbasse (IAM) and Alex Howes (Cannondale) with 10 seconds in hand.
But they were caught shortly after, and Orica-GreenEdge continued to do most of the work on the front, as they had for most of the day for Matthews and Simon Gerrans, attempting to pin back any attacks.
Any attempts to control the race by them or Sky however, eventually failed, as Gasparotto’s attack on Cauberg was the decisive move that saw him take the Amstel Gold Race title for a second time.
Amstel Gold Race 2016 (248.7km)
1. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert, in 6-18-03
2. Michael Valgren (Den) Tinkoff
3. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bardiani-CSF
4. Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie
5. Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
6. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx-Quick Step
7. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida
8. Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Movistar
9. Loic Vliegen (Bel) BMC
10. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, all same time