Gilbert wary of 'fresh' Contador, battling for rare worlds-Lombardy double
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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Gilbert wary of 'fresh' Contador, battling for rare worlds-Lombardy double

by VeloNation Press at 8:04 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Fall Classics, Giro di Lombardia
 
Belgian glad about rain, says ‘the legs will decide’ the winner

Philippe GilbertThere may be several big contenders in the running as the peloton speeds towards this afternoon’s conclusion of Il Lombardia, but all eyes are on one rider in particular: Philippe Gilbert. The Belgian commandeers attention in being the new world champion, and is the rider most evidently in form. He also stands out in the distinctive Maillot Arc en Ciel, the rainbow bands setting him apart from every other rider in the bunch.

A two time winner of the race, the marking he will face means that a victory today would likely be the most hard-earned of the three. It would also guarantee him a place in history: this far, only seven riders have succeeded in winning the worlds and Giro di Lombardia in the same season. If he triumphs today, he will join Alfredo Binda, Tom Simpson, Eddy Merckx, Felice Gimondi, Giuseppe Saronni, Oscar Camenzind and Paolo Bettini as the only ones to do the double.

Gilbert spoke yesterday before the race, saying that he was fired up by the challenge and the thoughts of being in the rainbow bands. “It will be a bit special as it will be the first time I will wear this jersey,” he said. “I just received it today at the hotel. They did good work, actually, it is looking nice with the BMC [logo] on it.”

His desire to perform as well as possible in the race meant that he opted to return to Monaco after his triumph in Valkenburg, training well, resting and getting good massage. Others decided to race, but he felt that it was the best path for him.

As regards his chances, he said that he wasn’t put off by the forecasts of bad weather yesterday, which has indeed materialised into bad conditions today.

“It is very good for me as I am very good in the descents, and I have the best tyres in the market. Continentals will help me tomorrow. The legs also. But we have a strong team. I still had a good week of training behind me. I think the condition will still be there. We will see in the final.”

Gilbert admitted that he has no idea what the gruelling new climb is like, the Muro di Sormano. He watched the final two hours of last year’s race yesterday as a form of reconnaissance, and will rely on the guidance of oters for the unknown element today.

“Alessandro Ballan and Santambroggio know it…I will just follow them. I think it is just a very hard climb, but the legs will decide.

“I know this kind of climb…you have to be in the first ten at the bottom, then the legs decide if you can follow or not. The thing is the top of the climb is pretty far from the finish…if you are one minute behind, I don’t think the race will be over because you can come back. And there is always a headwind to Lecco in the valley.”

The Muro di Sormano is far from the only climb in the race, of course, and that is what makes riders such as Joaquim Rodriguez and Alberto Contador so dangerous. The latter comes to Lombardy aiming to win his first major Classic, and is boosted by both his Vuelta a España victory and also his triumph this week in Milano-Torino.

Gilbert sees him as being particularly dangerous, and not just because of his climbing ability. “Like I said in the Vuelta, he was not racing for a long time and has a lot of reserves. At the end of the season this makes a lot of difference compared to us, who started in Australia, Qatar, things like this,” he said.

“We did maybe two Grand Tours, and he was only racing two months, three months. It is a big difference. He is fresh, mentally and physically, so it is a big advantage, but he does not have experience of this race.”

What’s clear is that there could be a very dramatic finale to today’s Classic, with several big champions going head to head for the honours. The race is the last for Gilbert this year and he will give everything possible to hit the line first, as he did last Sunday in Valkenburg.

If he has the same legs today as he did then, he should be right in the mix. It will become apparent in a couple of hours if that will be is enough.

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