Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) launched a perfectly timed sprint to win the Amstel Gold Race ahead of Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol) and Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale).
Oscar Freire (Katusha) launched a bold attack six kilometres from the finish of the 256.5km race but was reeled in just metres from the line, with Gasparotto triumphing to become the first Italian to win a Classic since Damiano Cunego won the Giro di Lombardia in 2008.
“Two years ago I was third here and I’ve learned from my mistakes that day,” said Gasparotto. “Back then I tried too hard, too soon on the Cauberg, this time I waited right until the last minute.”
Nine riders formed the day’s break 39km into the race from Maastricht to Valkenburg and peppered with 31 climbs.
The group extended their lead to more than 13 minutes but, with BMC Racing and Katusha leading the chase, the final escapee, Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) was reeled in ahead of the 1,200m Cauberg climb, which has a maximum gradient of 13 per cent.
Defending champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), who won the race in 2010 and 2011, led a group of approximately 35 riders up the climb in pursuit of three-time world champion Freire, who was caught within the final 50m and forced to settle for fourth ahead of Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Gilbert.
Amstel Gold Race – result
1) Enrico Gasparotto (ITA) – Astana 6.32.35
2) Jelle Vanendert (BEL) – Lotto Belisol
3) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Liquigas-Cannondale + 2”
4) Oscar Freire (SPA) – Katusha
5) Thomas Voeckler (FRA) – Europcar
6) Philippe Gilbert (BEL) – BMC
7) Samuel Sanchez (SPA) – Euskaltel-Euskadi
8) Fabian Wegmann (GER) – Garmin-Barracuda +4”
9) Rinaldo Nocentini (ITA) – AG2R – La Mondiale
10) Bauke Mollema (NED) Rabobank