Gilbert goes frustratingly close to first win as world champion
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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Gilbert goes frustratingly close to first win as world champion

by Shane Stokes at 8:02 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Paris-Nice
Belgian believes long sprint may have cost him his chance

Philippe GilbertAs his final effort showed, Philippe Gilbert had huge motivation to take yesterday’s stage victory in Paris-Nice; the win would have been his first in the rainbow jersey of world champion, and it would also have underlined how much better he is than this time last year, when he was a pale shadow of his usual self.

Gilbert looked to be threatened by the very rapid French sprinter Samuel Dumoulin, who jumped off his wheel and drew alongside him in the sprint before the Belgian rallied and pulled ahead again. However seeing off that threat wasn't enough; on his left hand side, the Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma Quick Step) surged with impressive speed and blitzed past to grab the win.

Speaking afterwards, Gilbert said that he was forced to go from very far out, and that this is what may have cost him his chance. “Dominik Nerz and Daniel Oss did a very big job, but we were missing one guy in the finale, so I did a very long sprint – about 300 meters," Gilbert said. "To hold this effort is not easy. It's a big disappointment because losing by that close is never good. It’s a pity.”

Gilbert is known as a puncheur, an explosive rider, rather than a sprinter. He seldom wins from large groups, tending instead to do so from solo moves, small breaks or on uphill finishes.

However directeur sportif John Lelangue said there was little alternative than trying what he did. “Attacking at one kilometer out made no sense because it was too far away and with a tailwind,” he stated. “The sprint was pretty well done. We're not a sprinters team, but we gave everything and Philippe give everything he had. We have no regrets.”

Gilbert clearly wants a victory, but today’s concluding Col d’Eze time trial won’t suit him. However he has the consolation of knowing he is in fine shape heading towards Milan-Sanremo, a race he has performed well in with two third places, but is yet to win.

As a result he will be highly motivated for the race, particularly as winning in the rainbow jersey is a rare, and thus particularly meritorious, achievement in the sport.


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