Peter Sagan (Cannondale Pro Cycling) was the name on everyone’s lips but it was Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff) who stole the show to win the 2013 Amstel Gold Race.
The Czech rider produced an attacking ride to win the opening race of the Ardennes Classics season, first breaking free from the peloton with Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha) to bridge across to the lead group, before surging clear on his own on the penultimate of 34 climbs.
Kreuziger has long been touted as champion but has, until now, failed to produce the results his potential promised, but the 26-year-old made no mistake in making his move stick to secure the biggest one-day victory of his career.
Behind Kreuziger, the race came together on the final climb of the Cauberg and Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) initially produced a move which shred the peloton, but an elite group formed in the sprint to the line, with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) claiming second and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) third.
Here’s how the race unfolded through the lens of photographer Stefano Sirotti.
Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) formed part of the day’s initial escape group and, with his breakaway companions flagging, surged clear with 46km of the 251km race remaining
World champion Gilbert went down early in a crash but was able to continue
Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida) took a flyer off the front of the peloton in a bid to bridge across to the leaders but the Italian was soon reeled in
Kreuziger was happy to bide his time, sitting in the peloton until attacking with Marcato and Caruso to form an eight-man lead group going into the 18.5km finishing circuit
Cannondale Pro Cycling led the chase in support of team leader and pre-race favourite Sagan
But it was Kreuzier who grabbed all the headlines, attacking from the lead group with seven kilometres and riding solo to the finish
Gilbert attacked on the Cauberg in a bid to catch Kreuziger but, in the end, the BMC Racing rider was forced to settle for fifth, with Valverde and Gerrans winning the sprint for the remaining podium places
Kreuziger gasps for air just moments after crossing the line
Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) produced a brave ride to bridge across the the leaders in the run-in to the finish but paid for his effort and eventually crossed the line in 26th
Sagan cuts a dejected figure after finishing 36th having suffered from cramps on the final climb
Some much-needed post-race refreshment for Kreuziger, Valverde and Gerrans, courtesy of brewer Amstel