Gilbert seals Ster success
Philippe Gilbert was the outright winner of the Ster ZLM Toer as Leigh Howard took the final stage.
By Jonathan Turner
Last Updated: 19/06/11 5:36pm
Philippe Gilbert was the overall winner of the Ster ZLM Toer as Leigh Howard prevailed in the bunch sprint at the end of the final stage.
Omega Pharma-Lotto rider Gilbert was protecting an advantage of just a second over Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step) on the general classification going into the 192 kilometres route which rounded off the event.
He had boosted that to three seconds by taking the last intermediate sprint, with Terpstra in third, but with 10, six and four seconds respectively available to the first three across the finishing line there was everything still to play for in the closing stages, which were three quickfire laps around Etten-Leur.
And Gilbert remained right at the head of affairs as he attacked inside the final kilometre and briefly put clean air between himself and the rest.
However it was all back together for the final dash up the Brouwerstrasse but with Howard (HTC-Highroad) edging out Sebastián Haedo (Saxo Bank Sungard) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin Cervelo) it meant that Gilbert grabbed the outright glory from Terpstra, with Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin Cervelo) rounding off the podium in third.
Gilbert, who had put himself in pole position by climbing to victory in Saturday's penultimate stage, was winning the Ster ZLM Toer for the second time in three years and his triumph was the latest in a memorable season which has also seen him claim all three Ardennes Classics.
Farrar won the sprints jersey while Anthony Roux (FDJ) had wrapped up the mountains classification 24 hours earlier.
The day had been marked by an early three-man break comprising Reinier Honig (Landbouwkrediet), Bert-Jan Lindeman (Jo Piels) and Albert Timmer (Skil - Shimano) which briefly stretched out an advantage of just under four minutes.
However with bonus seconds potentially crucial that was highly unlikely to stay away and it was reeled in with around 100 kilometres remaining.
Another escape trio, this time featuring Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin Cervelo) and Team Sky's Alex Dowsett, who were both in the top 10 on the GC, went clear after the final intermediate sprint but they were never allowed much leeway and it duly came down to a bunch sprint, with Howard and Gilbert the riders with most to celebrate.
There was another prominent showing from Team Sky with Dowsett finishing sixth overall and his teammate Davide Appollonio in seventh.