April 17, 2011 - In-form Belgian rider Philippe Gilbert won the Amstel Gold race for the second successive year on Sunday to add to his win in the Fleche-Brabanconne earlier this week.
The 28-year-old came home well clear of Spaniard Joaquin Rodriguez while Australian Simon Gerrans was third in the 260km ride through the hilly Limburg region.
"For me this is the most important week of the season," said Gilbert, who after winning jumped a barrier and cuddled his child in his arms. "I had planned to be at 100 percent at this particular spell and it has proved to be the case."
"Since Wednesday I have had the most wonderful sensations. I am starting to have extraordinary experiences in the one day races, both in training and in the races themselves. I also have a very strong team who helped me a lot, physically and mentally. During the race I was always very calm, I allowed my team to do the work."
Gilbert, who has targeted the Liege-Bastogne-Liege next weekend as his main objective, seized command on the final climb after Rodriguez had made a vain attempt to go clear himself.
The first three home had overtaken two-time Tour de France runner-up Andy Schleck on the climb after the Luxembourg star had gone clear 11km from the finish but having looked set for victory he came unstuck on the steep ascent.
His older brother Frank - Amstel champion in 2008 - fared worse as he and Swiss star Fabian Cancellara were held up 23km from the finish by a crash in front of them losing any chance of winning the race.
Gilbert - who numbers two Paris-Tours and Tour of Lombardy races among his major wins - was helped in his challenge by the hard work put in by his Omega-Pharma team-mate Jelle Vanendert, who managed to restrict Andy Schleck's lead to just over 10 seconds.
"I wasn't forced to go on the attack, I only had to make an extra effort in the final three kilometres, which allowed me to win," said Gilbert. "When Andy (Schleck) made a break, he chose his moment wisely, after the Keutenberg (the penultimate of the 32 climbs). I still had Vanendert with me, and I was confident and did not panic. When he had built up a lead of 15 seconds, I decided to help because Vanendert was at the end of his tether. I asked for help from the Rabobank team, but they didn't want to help."
"It was up to me to assume my responsibilities as favourite and that is what I did."
Results of the 260.4km Amstel Gold:
1. Philippe Gilbert (BEL) OLO 6hr 30min 44sec
2. Joaquin Rodriguez (ESP) KAT at 2sec
3. Simon Gerrans (AUS) SKY 4
4. Jakob Fuglsang (DEN) LEO 5
5. Alexandr Kolobnev (RUS) KAT 5
6. Oscar Freire (ESP) RAB 5
7. Bjorn Leukemans (BEL) VAC 7
8. Ben Hermans (BEL) RSH 18
9. Robert Gesink (NED) RAB 19
10. Paul Martens (GER) RAB 26
11. Andy Schleck (LUX) LEO 28
12. Johnny Hoogerland (NED) VAC 36
13. Jelle Vanendert (BEL) OLO 48
14. Daniel Moreno (ESP) KAT 1min 38sec
15. Damiano Cunego (ITA) LAM 1:39
16. Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) QST 1:44
17. Alexandre Vinokourov (KAZ) AST 2:09
18. Jurgen Van den Broeck (BEL) OLO 2:09
19. Bram Tankink (NED) RAB 2:10
20. Fabian Wegmann (GER) LEO 2:13