VALKENBURG, Netherlands (AP) — World champion Michal Kwiatkowski of Poland won a sprint to the line Sunday to take the 50th edition of the Amstel Gold Race.
Defending champion Philippe Gilbert, seeking his fourth title in the Dutch spring classic, broke away on the final climb of the Cauberg hill shortly before the finish and was followed by another of the pre-race favorites, Michael Matthews of Australia.
But neither man could shake off the peloton and they were caught on the final sprint as Kwiatkowski powered past them.
Alejandro Valverde of Spain was second and Matthews hung on to finish third. Gilbert crossed the line in 10th place.
“Winning in the (world champion’s) rainbow jersey is such an amazing feeling,” Kwiatkowski told Dutch broadcaster NOS.
He said he felt exhausted on the penultimate climb of the Cauberg, but his teammates assured him all the other riders were suffering equally as they rode through the rolling hills of Limburg province in the southern Netherlands.
“I was really suffering on the last lap,” he said.
But he preserved just enough energy to stay close to Gilbert and Matthews as they tried to make a decisive break on the short but steep Cauberg. Matthews just managed to hang on to Gilbert’s wheel, but both men used so much energy on the grueling uphill sprint that they could not hang on in the race for the line on the final flat section of road.
Kwiatkowski paid tribute to Etixx-Quick Step teammate and time trial specialist Tony Martin for sticking with Vincenzo Nibali toward the end of the race to ensure last year’s Tour de France winner could not manage a solo break.
“He helped me a lot, and I’m really thankful to him,” Kwiatkowski said of Martin.