Valkenburg - Philippe Gilbert continued his fine start to the season by winning the prestigious Amstel Gold Race for the fourth time on Sunday -- and then made short work of a celebratory beer on the podium.
At the end of a punishing 260km course that included 35 climbs, Belgian Gilbert outsprinted 2015 winner Michal Kwiatkowski of Poland in a tactical finale.
"In the end with Kwiato we went hard, I saw the guys behind were on the limit -- I was too but if you can find one or two percent more it makes the difference," Gilbert told television cameras.
"I told him (Kwiatkowski), 'We ride until the last K (kilometre) and the best man wins'. That's the best deal you can make."
The two breakaway leaders were slowly being caught by five chasers as they played cat and mouse in the final kilometre, with Gilbert teasing Kwiatkowski into launching his bid for victory first, with more than 300 metres left.
Kwiatkowski tied up allowing Gilbert to streak past in the final metres, holding up four fingers as he claimed victory in the battle between two former world champions.
"He surprised me a little in the sprint, but it was a headwind so I didn't panic, and I saw I was getting closer and closer, and it was perfect for me in the end," said Gilbert.
Switzerland's Michael Albasini won the five-man sprint for third place while Belgium's Greg Van Avermaet, the star performer of the season so far, could manage only 12th.
Gilbert won the Tour of Flanders two weeks ago and also the Three Days of De Panne in the week leading up to that as he enjoyed a successful cobbled classics season that included second-place finishes at Dwars door Vlaanderen and E3 Harelbeke.
Kwiatkowski had also been in great shape, winning Milan-San Remo -- which like the Tour of Flanders is one of cycling's "Monument" races -- and Strade Bianche while finishing second at the Tour of the Algarve.
Results from Sunday's 261km Amstel Gold Race from Maastricht to Valkenburg:
1. Philippe Gilbert (BEL/QST) 6hr 33min 55sec, 2. Michal Kwiatkowski (POL/SKY) same time, 3. Michael Albasini (SUI/ORI) at 10sec, 4. Nathan Haas (AUS/DDT) s.t., 5. Jose Joaquin Rojas (ESP/MOV) s.t., 6. Sergio Henao (COL/SKY) s.t., 7. Ion Izagirre (ESP/BAH) 14, 8. Michael Gogl (AUT/TRE) 1:10, 9. Sonny Colbrelli (ITA/BAH) 1:11, 10. Michael Matthews (AUS/SUN) s.t.
12. Greg Van Avermaet (BEL/BMC) s.t., 19. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) s.t.