Philippe Gilbert says he's under 'no pressure' for results from BMC Racing Team
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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Philippe Gilbert says he's under 'no pressure' for results from BMC Racing Team

by Ben Atkins at 3:10 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics
 
Belgian champion still searching for best form in 2012 as Ardennes Classics approach

philippe gilbertIt was always going to be tough for BMC Racing’s Philippe Gilbert to match his 2011 season but, with the Ardennes Classics on the horizon, the Belgian champion is looking a mere shadow of his former self. By the time last year’s Brabantse Pijl came around, the 29-year-old had already taken three victories, and it was to become the first of an unbelievable eleven days that also saw him win the Amstel Gold Race, la Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

Despite showing aggression on the climbs of the race’s finishing circuit, Gilbert was forced to watch the winning moves disappear up the road. In 2011 he had dominated the race, but this year is struggling against riders he is used to leaving for dead.

“I’m getting better every week, but I still have a long way to go,” the Belgian champion told Sporza after the race. “I can go as deep as in 2011, but without success.”

Gilbert changed teams over the winter, leaving what is now the Lotto-Belisol team for BMC Racing in a reportedly big money move. Thankfully he reports that the American team is showing patience as it waits for its big signings - including former World champion Thor Hushovd - to deliver their expected success.

“BMC continues to believe in me; they’re putting no pressure on me,” Gilbert explained. “They also know that it’s a long season.”

Although he will be on the start line of the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday, with number one pinned to his back as the defending champion, Gilbert explained that he has very few expectations for the race.

“I’ve given myself no more goals this spring,” he said. “My biggest goal is to recapture my old form.

“It is difficult to understand where it is going wrong. Is it because it was mentally as well as physically demanding last year? Is it the new team?”

Gilbert now finds himself forced to consider different tactics to last year; where he was able to blow the peloton off his wheel on the final climb, he is having to look for other ways to take results. Last year’s Brabantse Pijl saw him drag Vacansoleil-DCM’s Björn Leukemans to the finish, where took an easily sprint; in both Amstel and Flèche, he simply rode away on the Cauberg and Mur de Huy respectively, to win alone; in Liège he made the Leopard Trek Schleck brothers look like amateurs as he easily overcame their numerical superiority in the finishing straight.

This is not an option this year.

“I have to go early, because I can’t compete with the best in the finale,” he explained.

Being Philippe Gilbert however, means that this is not so simple.

“The problem is that someone with my reputation is not just allowed to ride away,” he said. “Then there is nothing else I can do but just try to hold on in the finale.”

While Gilbert was entirely unstoppable in the Ardennes last year, his WorldTour winning season was built on far more than that. After a break he won the Tour of Belgium, the Belgian title, the opening stage of the Tour de France - where he also competed for the green jersey - and many other races. The Belgian champion still has plenty of time to repay the BMC Racing Team for the patience they have shown in him.

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