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Gilbert wins Amstel Gold Race

Philippe Gilbert continued his stunning return to form by blowing his rivals away to win the Amstel Gold Race for the third time.

The Belgian, who triumphed at Brabantse Pijl on Wednesday, continued his winning run by producing a stinging attack on the final ascent of the Cauberg which left his rivals in the dust.

Gilbert's BMC Racing team-mate Samuel Sanchez had kicked things off on the iconic climb, but when he wilted Gilbert was perfectly positioned to fire off the front and passed Simon Gerrans and Alejandro Valverde as he powered over the summit.

In a repeat of his World Championships success on the same roads in 2012, Gilbert then pressed home his advantage on the 1.8km section which followed to take his victory by two seconds.

Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Belisol) made it a Belgian 1-2 in Holland, while Gerrans rounded out the podium in third.

The 49th edition of Holland's biggest bike race had been a hard-fought affair with several big names crashing out during the early exchanges. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) all suffered premature exits as a result of crashes on the tough and constantly-undulating parcours.

10 riders had brought the race to life by attacking soon after the roll out in Maastricht, and their lead stretched to almost 15 minutes by the time they hit the Cauberg for the first of four occasions. It was only when several teams joined forces in their pursuit that the gap began to tumble, and the group's advantage had more than halved when they began to fracture 50km from home.

Nicola Boem (Bardiani CSF), Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Christophe Riblon (AG2R) provided the sternest resistance, but they were swept up by a seven-man counter move which included illustrious names such as Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) on the final lap of the day.

The furious pace in the peloton ensured that everything came back together in the last 8km however, and as expected it was the favourites who came to the fore on the final ascent of the Cauberg.

Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge), Sanchez (BMC Racing) and Valverde (Movistar) all produced solid attacks but Gilbert timed his move to perfection and had time to celebrate before wrapping up his third victory in the first Ardennes Classic success of the season.