Philippe Gilbert : “My condition has been improving day by day”
  October 24, 2014 Login  

Current Articles    |   Archives    |   RSS Feeds    |   Search

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Philippe Gilbert : “My condition has been improving day by day”

by Ben Atkins at 12:08 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Liège-Bastogne-Liège , Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne
 
Sixth place in Amstel Gold makes Belgian champion optimistic, if not confident, ahead of Flèche Wallonne

philippe gilbertPhilippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) came into this year’s Ardennes Classics as the defending champion in each of the three races, but without having shown winning form so far this season. Sixth place in Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race was better than many expected however, and put him ahead of most of the other pre-race favourites, and puts the Belgian champion in a more positive frame of mind ahead of tomorrow’s Flèche Wallonne.

“I'm satisfied,” said Gilbert, after a final 60km pre-race reconnaissance ride with his BMC Racing teammates. “Having had a respectable result is good for the morale and helps me recover a little faster.

“I knew my condition would be back one day and it's nice to be better and it's always easier,” he explained. “Cycling is an extremely demanding sport, so when we suffer it is not always easy to be good during a race. Being in better condition helps me to see the race, to analyse it and to place myself in the front.”

While sixth place in Amstel Gold is Gilbert’s best result of the season so far, it is still a far cry from the 29-year-old’s 2011 season, which had already seen him take victories like the Strade Bianche and Brabantse Pijl before taking his Ardennes triple.

According to Het Nieuwsblad, Gilbert’s ascent of the Cauberg on Sunday took 1 minute 33 seconds, which was reportedly seven seconds slower than last year. While the Belgian’s champion is improving, he still may not be good enough to successfully defend his title at Flèche on Wednesday, or in Liège on Sunday.

“I'm not 100 percent yet, but I feel it's coming,” he said. “I think that at this level you really have to be at the top and every little failure is paid immediately.”

His steady improvement does give him hope of a good performance in the race however, and he feels that he might just be able to do it.

“The past several weeks my condition has been improving day by day,” he explained, optimistically. “So time is on my side – it's my best ally.” If his own form isn’t good enough to take the win though, Gilbert knows who the riders to watch will be as the peloton hits the base of the Mur for the final time.

“I think the Katusha Team in general, they have several cards to play with guys like Oscar Freire and Joaquim Rodríguez,” he said. “They have a very strong team here. For me they are the favourites, especially with this type of finish.”

While the 194km race will undoubtedly be decided on the impossibly steep road to the top of the Mur de Huy, changes to the final 31km finishing loop have been made with the intention of making the approach to the climb much tougher. The inclusion of the Côte d'Amay and the Côte de Villers-le-Bouillet inside the final 15km have been added with the hope of offering more opportunities for adventurous riders, who don’t fancy their chances in a straight race up the Mur.

Having checked out the new course however, GIlbert is not so sure.

“This route seems to favour a breakaway that may start from far away, or even more riders might come to the finish together,” reasoned Gilbert. “I think the race will probably be easier than before, which does not necessarily plays in my favour.”

In his own mind the Belgian champion is getting closer to his best form, and is mentally ready for the challenge ahead.

"I'm fine; it feels good to be here for sure,” he said. “I will not be satisfied unless I get another good result. And I'll be very happy if I win.”

The Ardennes is Gilbert’s home region, with the roads of Amstel Gold and, especially, Flèche and Liège, lined with thousands of his fans.

“At the finish of Amstel, there was a huge turnout, including my family and my fan club,” said GIlbert. “They have always been at my side and never abandoned me; even when things weren't going so well the past few months. Those are people I can count on. The rest does not matter, so for sure it’s always a great pleasure to see them.”

No doubt Gilbert will be all out to please those fans in the coming races, by taking at least one victory; whether his current form will be improved sufficiently for this remains to be seen.

BMC Racing Team for la Flèche Wallonne
Brent Bookwalter, Philippe Gilbert, Martin Kohler, Klaas Lodewyck, Mauro Santambrogio, Michael Schär, Greg Van Avermaet and Tejay Van Garderen

      comments




Subscribe via RSS or daily email

WHAT'S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW
  Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy  Copyright 2008-2013 by VeloNation LLC