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Gilbert Continues Dream Spring with Amstel Victory

Gilbert wins Amstel 2017 Tim de Waele/Corbis via Getty Images

It was a brilliant success for the Dutch race's new course as the peloton broke out into war much earlier than one might have expected on the race around Limburg, now missing the Cauberg finish, splitting the race into more, and much smaller groups going into the final laps. All of this was to the advantage of Gilbert, who could get himself into the select front group and use his tactical nous to better effect than could be possible on a finishing climb.

No, today's race all broke apart on the Kruisberg with around forty kilometres to go, after Fabian Grellier of Direct Energie, the last survivor from a break containing Lars Boom, Vincenzo Albanese, Stijn Vandenbergh, Mads W­urtz, Lars Boom, Stijn Vandenbergh, Tim Ariesen, Nikita Stalnov, Michal Paluta, Brendan Canty, Johann Van Zyl, Kenneth Van Rooy and Pieter Van Speybrouck, was mopped out by a mobbing peloton, each team anxious to be in front in anticipation of the attacks that would inevitably break out. That they did, with Tiesj Benoot the first to make a move, and the first to succeed in doing so. With him immediately jumped Gilbert and Sky's Sergio Henao. Soon after a bridge was made by Bert-Jan Lindeman of LottoNL-Jumbo and Orica-Scott's Michael Albasini. The group were later joined by Ion Izagirre of Bahrain-Merida, Dimension Data's Nathan Haas and Movistar's Spanish champion José Joaquín Rojas. Benoot, the instigator and Lindeman would soon make forced exits from the group, Benoot suffering a puncture and Lindeman being dropped.

With so many big names in the chasing group and the race coming closer together as the race hit the Keutenberg thirty klicks out - the lead group only had ten seconds advantage at that point - it was no great surprise to see Greg Van Avermaet, the season's other star, making his move. He sprinted up the climb, dragging Michal Kwiatkowski and Alejandro Valverde with him, ending up forming a chase group behind the Gilbert sextet with Tim Wellens and Fabio Felline, but that wasn't enough for the Pole, who accelerated up to the lead group, accompanying his team mate Henao. It proved a wise decision, as the group would never quite make it up to the front, even when joined with Bob Jungels, Warren Barguil and Ruí Costa. Jungels and Valverde ended up glass-cranking owing to their team mates in the front group, meaning Van Avermaet had to do the majority of the work, and he wasn't capable of taking back time on the more cohesive lead group.

Kwiatkowski and Henao however immediately looked to make use of their numerical advantage and put their stamp over the race, with Henao taking a lot of pulls. He and Gilbert were the two biggest workers in the group, but they showed no sign of slowing in the latter kilometres until Kwiatkowski made an attack on the final hill, the Bemelerberg. Gilbert immediately responded to the threat, and Kwiatkowski slowed, but went again, again only bringing Gilbert, who made his own move, forcing the duo clear. They worked cohesively until the flamme rouge, with only Izagirre working to bring them back, having enough of a gap to play cat-and-mouse in the final kilometre. Gilbert slowed, looked around, leant on the top tube and flicked his elbow, but nothing could convince Kwiatkowski to come around until a time of his choosing.
That time, however, was just a bit too early. The Pole's acceleration contained enough venom to knock Gilbert back, but the champion of Belgium winched his way back into the slipstream and ahead of Kwiatkowski, raising his arms in the air to celebrate another classic victory.