Gilbert ready for rainbow-colored season after solid winter training
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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Gilbert ready for rainbow-colored season after solid winter training

by Kyle Moore at 12:56 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Amstel Gold Race
 
World champion hoping for another winning Classics season

Philippe GilbertPhilippe Gilbert had a large portion of the spotlight shining on him during Friday’s BMC Racing team presentation in Eke, a town in the municipality of Nazareth, Belgium. Gilbert fielded questions casually in English, French, and Dutch, but the message was mostly the same: last year, while not bad overall, is in the past, and it is time to focus on 2013, and the individual and team goals that a new season brings.

While Gilbert’s struggles last year were well-publicized, with the Walloon failing to pick up a victory until the Vuelta a España, he bounced back strongly at the end of the season, before ending his schedule relatively early, allowing him a head start on the winter recovery and training processes. But just before he concluded his season, Gilbert picked up the world title at the top of the Cauberg in The Netherlands, so in spite of the nearly season-long struggles faced by the Belgian, he can hang his hat in 2013 from the same hook on which is draped the rainbow jersey.

Speaking at a press conference after the team presentation, Gilbert attempted to limit his remarks on the season gone by, save for a short explanation. “My season was not that bad – I was sometimes a little bit less than my normal level,” Gilbert reasoned.

“But I had a good winter so I’ll be ready to go for another nice season. I stopped my season earlier [he didn’t race again after crashing out of Il Lombardia on September 29 – ed.], so I’ve had a good three months of training over the winter, so I have good endurance training behind me and a lot of intensity the last few weeks. You need a good winter to have a strong season,” he added, noting that living in Monaco was advantageous for many reasons, along with allowing him to “follow the sun” for better training.

As BMC Racing introduces one of the most talented rosters in the peloton, even the world champion knows that there will be some events and prizes that he can target, and some that he cannot. For his spring goals, Gilbert rattled off a quick list of races, some of which are already on his palmarès, though according to the Belgian, this would not lessen the motivation, especially after coming up empty in 2012.

“For me, [the goals] are always the same; the big Classics like Milan-Sanremo, Flanders, Amstel, Flèche, and Liège,” he stated. “I’ve won some of them but I still want to win some others. For me, the Classics are all big and all important. It’s what I race for, so if I could win one of those, it would be nice.”

When asked about rumors that the finish to the Amstel Gold Race could shift to the same point as the line at the most recent world championships, Gilbert seemed intrigued, but did not bat an eye. “It’s the same. The goal is still to control the race to the bottom of the last time up the Cauberg and then the strongest wins.”

BMC Racing directors could be faced with some tough calls when it comes time to make a Tour de France selection, though the team’s primary goal to protect Cadel Evans and Tejay van Garderen, with the American expected to give support to the Australian, goes without stating.

Two summers ago, in his final season with Omega Pharma-Lotto, Gilbert put up an honest fight for the Tour’s green jersey, prompting questions as to whether he could mount a similar charge in 2013, to which Gilbert replied that he would not.

“If I make the Tour de France selection, it will be to help the team,” he insisted. “In 2011, I saw the energy you need to fight for the green jersey. You need all your power focused on it, but if I go to the Tour, it’s to help Cadel and Tejay. So when you’re helping someone else, it’s not possible to fight for a jersey or a stage win or something. You give everything for the team or you go for your own chances, not both together.”

Though before the cobbles and hills of the spring, or heat and hills of the Tour beckon, the world champion dons his stripes to open the season at the Santos Tour Down Under, his first appearance at the race since riding for Française des Jeux in 2008.

“Last time I did it was five years ago, so it was just time to go back,” Gilbert said. “It’s a nice event, well organized, and it’s a World Tour race, so it’s important for the team and for me.”

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