Philippe Gilbert: “It’s everybody against Cavendish”
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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Philippe Gilbert: “It’s everybody against Cavendish”

by Ben Atkins at 5:43 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Olympics
 
Belgians will count on alliances with other big nations to foil the World champion sprinter

philippe gilbertPhilippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) has been training on the Olympic road race route, on the roads of Surrey to the south of London. The Belgian - whose 2012 season has been a far cry from that of last year where he was almost invincible in hilly single-day races - sees Saturday’s race as a chance to re-establish himself at the top of the sport, but knows that he will have to first foil the chances of Great Britain favourite Mark Cavendish (Team Sky).

This weekend will mark Gilbert’s second appearance at the Olympic Games; he rode in Athens 2004, where he finished 49th, but didn’t make the five-man Belgian team for Beijing 2008.

“I think it’s a tremendous experience to be here,” Gilbert told Het Nieuwsblad. “You only get this chance once every four years. We are up against 140 riders at the start, so to get a medal is difficult, but we are very motivated.”

Gilbert - along with Belgian teammates Tom Boonen and Stijn Vandenbergh (both Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Jürgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol), and BMC Racing teammate Greg Van Avermaet - has checked out the circuit based on Box Hill, which the men’s race will complete nine times. Like many riders however, the Belgians had their session cut short as some local riders descending the Zig Zag Road forced its closure.

“We only managed to do one lap, and then the circuit was closed for security,” said Gilbert. “It’s not a really tough course, but not really easy. You can do the climb of Box Hill in the big ring; I think [Mark] Cavendish will be able to manage it.”

As the ‘fastest man on two wheels’ World champion Cavendish will be the outstanding favourite on Saturday if the race is decided in a sprint; Gilbert and the Belgians are therefore faced with the task of getting rid of the Manxman before the finish.

“Actually, we’re all together in the same boat; it’s everyone against Cavendish,” he explained. “If we go with him into the sprint, we are beaten.

“We will set out to make the race as difficult as possible, but the five of us cannot do it alone. We will count on the Italians and Spanish for help, for example; ‘Cav’, of course, has an excellent team around him.”

Like Roelandts - but unlike Boonen, Vandenbergh and Van Avermeat - Gilbert completed the Tour de France, which finished last Sunday. Like in his disappointing spring, the former Belgian champion was rarely able to be a factor in the race, with two fourth places his best stage results, but he feels that he has come out of the three-week race with some good form.

“Yesterday I trained for three hours and, especially in the last hour, my legs felt really good,” he said. “I can’t say what percentage I’m at, but I’m ready.”

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