Roman Kreuziger of the Czech Republic attacked early and held off the favorites Sunday to win the Amstel Gold Race around the hills of the southern Netherlands for his first one-day classic victory.
Two-time winner Philippe Gilbert of Belgium, who won the World Championships road race over a similar course last year, powered up the final climb of the steep Cauberg hill but could not catch Kreuziger and faded on the long final straight to finish fourth.
Saxo-Tinkoff rider Kreuziger finished the 251-kilometer race in 6 hours, 35 minutes, 21 seconds. Alejandro Valverde of Spain finished second and Simon Gerrans of Australia was third.
"The whole team did an excellent job out there and I was fully prepared for the finale and I was feeling strong all the way," Kreuziger said. "On the final climb of Cauberg, I just looked down and pedaled without thinking so much."
He was the second surprise winner in as many years of the Amstel Gold Race, following Enrico Gasparotto's victory last year.
Another pre-race favorite, Slovak star Peter Sagan, who finished third last year, could not find any pace on the final Cauberg climb to put himself in position to sprint for the line.
Gilbert's chances of snatching a third Amstel Gold title were frustrated by a crash around the halfway mark that left him off the pace and expending valuable energy to rejoin the peloton.