Sizzling Gilbert makes it four in Dutch Limburg Author: Michaël Torfs

Sun 16/04/2017 - 17:01 Michaël Torfs A red hot Belgian champion Philippe Gilbert posted his fourth victory in the Dutch cycling classic Amstel Gold Race on Sunday. In a battle of the giants against another former World Champion, Michal Kwiatkowski, Gilbert got the better of his Polish opponent in the sprint. Kwiatkowski had won Milan-Sanremo this spring, while Gilbert had already triumphed in the Tour of Flanders. Both are former winners of the race on the rolling hills of Dutch Limburg province.

Philippe Gilbert earlier won the Gold Race in 2010, 2011 and 2014 and also became World Champion on a similar course including the famous Cauberg in Maastricht in 2012.

Gilbert, who turns 35 in July, got the better of his breakaway companion Kwiatkowksi in a nerve-wrecking, tactical sprint where both waited as long as possible to start because of the strong head wind in a grey and chilly Limburg. Kwiatkowski started from behind in an attempt to surprise Gilbert, but the Belgian reacted well and overtook the Polish rider of the Sky Team to take the win in Berg en Terblijt. 

A wise decision to skip Paris-Roubaix

Gilbert found back his best form this year after a transfer to the Belgian Quick Step Team of General Manager Patrick Lefevere. He won the Tour of Flanders for the first time in his career two weeks ago, and agreed to take a break after that to concentrate on the Amstel and the Ardennes classics (Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège), despite his eagerness to try Paris-Roubaix to help Tom Boonen in his last race.

The 261 km race took the riders across the typical green, rolling hills of Dutch Limburg, with some steep climbs and a lot of small, winding roads. Organisers had redesigned the finale to make it more attractive: the riders didn't have to climb the Cauberg in the final kilometres this time.

Gilbert and Kwiatkowski broke away from a small group on the Bemelerberg deep into the final. Michael Albasini of Switzerland took third place, 10 seconds behind Gilbert, with New Zealander Nathan Haas taking fourth place.

Dutch hero Jan Raas may get nervous

Gilbert is now one victory short of the absolute record of five wins held by Jan Raas. Gilbert is also the first rider to win both the Tour of Flanders and the Gold Race in one season, after... Jan Raas in 1979. Eddy Merckx also did it in 1975, adding Liège-Bastogne-Liège as well.