Team Saxo-Bank's Roman Kreuziger won the biggest race of his career to date with victory in the Amstel Gold Race.
The Czech rider who had been part of the breakaway struck out for home alone with less than 10 kilometres to go and stayed clear to celebrate at the top of the Cauberg.
The remaining podium positions were left up to a sprint in which Movistar's Alejandro Valverde secured second and Simon Gerrans squeezed out Phillipe Gilbert to take third.
The day started with an early five man break including Mikel Astarloza. The Euskaltel rider remained at the head of the field for most of the day. The group, which expanded to seven riders, had a lead of over 11 minutes on the peloton. As the main bunch realised this the gap began to be eroded, with Peter Sagan's Cannondale team doing much of the legwork.
The first drama of the day came with roughly 100 km to go when pre-race favourite and world champion Phillipe Gilbert was involved in a crash which took out Thomas Voeckler of Europcar.
As the gap between the break and the peloton began to tumble, Alexandre Pliuschin of IAM, Mikel Astarloza and Johan Vansummeren of Garmin-Sharp dropped the rest of the break in a bid to hold out. Astarloza soon decided that his best chance was to go it alone and dropped the other two riders.
The drama continued in the main bunch as Purito Rodriguez was involved in a crash which ended his day and may keep him out of the remaining Ardennes classics.
The race then began to kick up a notch as Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEdge) attacked. The Dutchman soon caught and dropped Van Summeren and Pliushin on the climb up the Keutenberg.
A number of riders joined the group, but a huge turn by BMC's Marcus Burghardt at the front of the main group kept the break in striking distance.
This was when Kreuziger showed his hand, jumping from the main group into the break, which had now caught Astarloza and included two riders from Team Blanco.
The leading group began to splinter as the final climb up the Cauberg loomed and Kreuziger leapt out on his own, giving all he could to get a lead of around 30 seconds over the field.
With just the final climb left, the pre-race favourites had no option but to try and catch Kreuziger themselves. A huge turn of speed by Gilbert looked briefly like it may be enough but he was soon caught by Gerrans and Valverde.
As Kreuziger passed the 1 km to go banner, it was clear that he had done enough. After a quick glance over his shoulder, there was nothing left to do but raise his arms and enjoy a hard fought victory.
"It was special race. When I went we didn't know what would happen, if we'd stay away,” Kreuziger told reporters. “In the last kilometre they told me I had 15 seconds at the start of the Cauberg and that was when I started to think I could win. The Cauberg was never ending…”
Top 10 Riders
|1||Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff|
|2||Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team|
|3||Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge|
|4||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team|
|5||Gianni Meersman (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step|
|6||Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica-GreenEdge|
|7||Björn Leukemans (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team|
|8||Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana Pro Team|
|9||Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Katusha|
|10||Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Garmin-Sharp|