Philippe Gilbert: “After a year like 2012 I’ll take everything I can get.”
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Monday, December 17, 2012

Philippe Gilbert: “After a year like 2012 I’ll take everything I can get.”

by Ben Atkins at 11:43 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Tour Down Under
 
World champion philosophical about only taking third place in Belgian Sportsman of the Year race

philippe gilbertPhilippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) has learned his lesson from 2012, he says, as he prepares for next year’s spring campaign. The World champion failed to win a single race until the Vuelta a España in late August/early September, but then followed his two stage victories by finally winning the rainbow jersey in Limburg, Netherlands.

Because of his mediocre - by his own standards anyway - first two-thirds of a season, and despite becoming the first Belgian World champion since 2005, Gilbert could only finish third in his country’s Sportsman of the Year race; a trophy he had taken home in each of the three previous years.

The award went to that 2005 World champion Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) - who had previously won it in 2005 and 2007 - with decathlete Hans Van Alphen - who finished fourth in the London Olympics - in second place.

“Ah, second or third, what is the difference?” a far from disappointed Gilbert told Het Nieuwsblad at last night’s presentation ceremony. “I don’t know Hans Van Alphen very well but he should be proud of that second place. I know what I have to do, and that’s to win races; then this would be a bonus. Of course I would have loved to have won again but the best victories are still those won on the bike.

“It was always my dream to become World champion and now I’ve succeeded,” he added. “That's the main thing.”

Boonen’s victory - awarded for his outstanding performance in the Cobbled Classics - means that, following Gilbert’s three titles, cyclocross king Sven Nys’ in 2008, and Boonen’s in 2007, a cyclist has taken the Sportman van het jaar award for the past six years.

"So it stays in the sport; this is good for cycling,” said Gilbert. “Tom has been at the top throughout the year. Trophies like this at the end of the season obviously follow. He’s won it again, but it is well deserved.

“I'm the first to stress how strong Boonen has been for the entire season.”

After such an indifferent spring this year [again, by his own exceptional standards, many riders would be more than happy with sixth place in the Amstel Gold Race and third in Flèche Wallonne - ed] Gilbert is far more happy with his preparations for 2013. He flew to the award ceremony from the BMC Racing Team’s training camp in Dénia, on the Costa Blanca, Spain, having been there since December 10th; the rest of the team will be there until the 20th, but Gilbert will not be returning.

“I've worked well; we were lucky with the weather; twenty degrees,” he explained. “My condition is better than at this time last year. It needs to be too, because I’m starting with the Tour DownUnder…”

“What we have done differently? Everything,” he continued. “Last year it was too heavy; this time we have trained with less intensity and more endurance.

“We have learned our lesson from last year," Gilbert added. "Everyone was disappointed and everyone is determined to do better.”

Wearing the rainbow stripes of World champion, Gilbert’s early-season targets will be the same as usual. He will be hoping that his 2013 spring will be more like 2011 - when he won the Strade Bianche, and an incredible Ardennes quadruple of Brabantse Pijl, Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège - and less like 2012.

“The Ardennes Classics and the Ronde van Vlaanderen, even though the new course doesn’t suit me so well,” he said. “But after a year like 2012 I’ll take everything I can get.”

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