Will Philippe Gilbert aim for Paris-Roubaix next season?
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Friday, October 28, 2011

Will Philippe Gilbert aim for Paris-Roubaix next season?

by Shane Stokes at 2:28 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Paris-Roubaix
Webchat quote creates confusion about goals

Philippe GilbertThe 2010 world road race champion Thor Hushovd has made it clear that he wants full team support in his bid to win next year’s Paris-Roubaix, but comments today by Philippe Gilbert have raised the possibility that he too might aim for the race.

The two riders will become team-mates next year on the BMC Racing Team squad, moving from their current Garmin-Cervélo and Omega Pharma-Lotto squads. Hushovd was understood to be the designated leader for Roubaix, yet if Gilbert’s comments are accurate, he may also want to ride aggressively.

Gilbert was asked about the cobbled Classic during a live webchat, where he was answering questions posed by Eurosport readers. One questioner wanted to know if he could win Paris-Roubaix in the future.

“I think I can, but it's a course where you have to master the all the various factors - tactics, paths not to take,” he answered. “The luck factor is also important. That can be quite frustrating - to lose Paris-Roubaix on a flat tyre, even if it is part of the game. It's all for me to find out next year. I think I have a chance.”

VeloNation contacted the BMC Racing Team to verify if the schedule suggested was indeed correct, and that Gilbert would ride the race next season. However the squad indicated that it had a policy of not commenting on incoming riders until after January 1st, when they are officially part of the team.

One reading of the situation is that Gilbert is referring to 2013 when he talks about next year. Some professionals already refer to the 2011 season as last year, creating the potential for confusion.

During this year’s Tour, Gilbert’s team-mate Andre Griepel (Omega Pharma Lotto) was reported as being unhappy not to get more backing. On at least one stage it appeared that he was frustrated with Gilbert’s aggressive racing when a bunch sprint was possible.

However Gilbert stresses that he believes there will be harmony within the BMC Racing Team. “We have three riders of character. We know what we want to win and when required how to be part of a group,” he said. “We had a meeting with all three of us with the staff. That was very constructive, there was no need to reach a formal agreement. Everyone stated their ambitions, and we realised that we all had different goals. There was no negotiation - it was all settled in half an hour!”

That suggests that he does indeed mean the 2013 Paris-Roubaix when he talks about next year’s event, although the confusion will remain until either he or his future team clarifies the situation.

Money, team-mates and rivals:

In the interview, he also commented on his reasons for joining the team. Asked if money was a big factor in him joining the BMC Racing Team, he confirmed that it was an important consideration. However he said that consideration extended beyond his own salary.

“It was a sporting one above all, but it was also a team capable of paying me, that's sure. Mainly I had the reassurance of having an extremely strong team capable of attracting strong riders,” he said. “You mustn't just look at your own salary but also those of others...”

During his career he has forged the reputation of a punchy, aggressive rider, who can both sprint well from a small group and also power clear on short to medium climbs. There are other riders who can shine under those conditions, and he discussed those likely rivals, including one who has in ways thrown down the gauntlet.

“Sagan is a big talent. So is Boasson Hagen,” he said. “These are phenomenons, a little like Boonen in his time or Valverde in his. On the bike it's great to be side to side with talented opponents even if Sagan and I have not yet the chance to confront each other directly.

“I read that he wants to take me on. It is a little provocative but it's good - I like that sort of thing and I take up the challenge.”

On Sunday Gilbert was named as recipient of the prestigious Flandrien trophy for the third consecutive year. The awards continued yesterday when he was crowed winner of the Vélo d’Or title for 2011, as well as also being presented with the WorldTour winner’s trophy.

He has said one of his top goals is to win all of the Classics before he retires from the sport. His one-day successes already include two editions of both the Giro di Lombardia and the Amstel Gold Race, as well as Liège-Bastogne-Liège.


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