Gilbert still the King of the Cauberg
Philippe Gilbert destroyed the field on the Cauberg to become only the second man in history to win the Amstel Gold Race for the second year in succession.
The 28-year-old Belgian, riding for the Omega Pharma-Lotto team, closed down a gutsy attack from Andy Schleck over the final five kilometres, before comfortably seeing off Katusha's Joaquim Rodriguez in the sprint on the last of the race's 32 climbs, the Cauberg.
Rodriguez held on to take second ahead of Australian Simon Gerrans (Team Sky), with Jakob Fuglsang (Trek-Leopard) back in fourth.
After a hectic opening hour of racing Thomas Degand (Veranda's Willems Accent), Albert Timmer (Skil-Shimano), Simone Ponzi (Liquigas) and Pierpaolo De Negri (Farnese Vini) managed to get clear of the peloton, though they could only stretch their lead to a relatively modest 11 minutes before the Rabobank team moved to the front and gradually take up the chase.
An attack from Rabobank's Luis Leon Sanchez 80 kilometres from home prompted Degand and De Negri to up their own tempo, shedding Ponzi and Timmer in the process, and though the Spaniard was unable bridge the gap, his team-mate and compatriot Carlos Barredo did attack and reach the lead duo, joined soon after by HTC's Jan Ghyselinck as they crested the Bemmelerberg with 60 kilometres remaining.
Gilbert's Omega Pharma-Lotto squad then moved to the head of the peloton, and finally reeled in the quartet on the Loorberg. A flurry of unsuccessful attacks from the likes of Jerome Pineau (Quick Step), Jakob Fuglsang (Trek-Leopard) and Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil) ensued, before drama struck as the Trek-Leopard duo of Fabian Cancellara and Frank Schleck fell just over 20 kilometres from home.
While Cancellara picked a perilous path through team cars and motorbikes back to the peloton, Schleck was forced to stop again to change bikes as his rear derailleur failed him, wiping out his chances of victory.
A huge dig on the Eyserbosweg from Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) shattered the peloton, reducing it to an elite 15 riders, who remained together as Jurgen Van den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto) moved to the front and set a punishing pace over the Fromberg.
Successive attacks from the Katusha duo of Joaquim Rodriguez and Kolobnev proved short-lived, and even a full-blooded attack from Andy Schleck (Trek-Leopard) at the top of the Keutenberg only saw him pull out 10 seconds on the group, thanks to a huge effort from Juergen Van den Broeck on behalf of his team-mate Gilbert.
With four kilometres remaining, Van den Broeck tiring, and the other riders in the chasing pack steadfastly refusing to help the Lotto team in their chase, Gilbert moved to the front to finally bring Schleck back.
The Belgian seemed unfazed by the prospect of allowing the rest of his rivals the benefit of his slipstream as they hurtled towards the flamme rouge, and by the time they hit the foot of the Cauberg, Schleck's advantage was down to just four seconds.
Rodriguez was the first to make his move, though was unable to shake off Gilbert, who remained on his wheel as the two edged clear of the rest of the group. Then, with 200 metres remaining, the Belgian showed why he was made such a big pre-race favourite, powering clear of Rodriguez to win by enough of a margin to celebrate well before he crossed the line.