Gilbert believes he’ll hit peak form just in time for Ardennes Classics
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Friday, April 12, 2013

Gilbert believes he’ll hit peak form just in time for Ardennes Classics

by VeloNation Press at 4:02 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Liège-Bastogne-Liège , Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne
 
World champion ready to battle ‘phenomenon’ Sagan

Philippe GilbertHe was mastered by Peter Sagan this week in the Brabantse Pijl race and had to be content with second at the finish, but Philippe Gilbert still believes that his form is coming at just the right time and that he can aim for victory in Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race plus the other Ardennes Classics.

The world road race champion has had a mixed season thus far and is yet to clock up his first win in the rainbow jersey. However he states that he didn’t lose faith, and has build his condition steadily. “I always had confidence, I knew it [top form] was coming,” he told La Dernière Heure. “I know I've worked hard.”

He points to the difficulty of the Brabantse Pilj course as showing that he is on track. “On such a tough parcours, there is no way to evade it. It never lies, it is automatically the strongest riders who are ahead,” he said. “I had a great race, Greg [Van Avermaet] also.

“It is reassuring…I'm not 100% yet, but I should get in shape just in time…”

Gilbert made history two years ago when he became the first rider to win Brabantse Pijl, the Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège in the same season. He can’t repeat the same feat now, finishing second to Sagan in the first of those races, but he’d jump at the chance of taking the three Ardennes Classics.

Sagan is a big obstacle, though. Gilbert accepts that he was in very good shape this week, with his attack in the finale putting the Belgian under pressure. “I struggled to stay on his wheel,” he admitted. “It took me four or five metres, but he saw it.”

However he believes the gap between the two of them is not insurmountable. “If he was not already flat out, he would have accelerated. He could not do that, so I am not far off his form.”

While Sagan was quicker at the finish, Gilbert suggests that this was to be expected. “It’s always better to win, but Sagan is one of the quickest riders in the peloton,” he said. “He even beats Cavendish or Greipel in a sprint. I knew that I had little chance of finishing ahead of him, but I tried. I didn’t make a mistake.”

He’ll look at Sagan’s season thus far and the fact that the Cannondale rider has been in superb form for a long time. Normally riders can’t maintain a peak indefinitely and so providing the Slovakian doesn’t have even more in the tank, his condition should start to ebb soon.

He has said that he will ride the Amstel Gold Race and perhaps Flèche Wallonne before taking a break; Liège-Bastogne-Liège is not currently on his schedule, so Gilbert will hope to have a clear run there. He believes that his preparation will likely be better than his other rivals.

“I do not think those who raced for the win in the Basque Country, where it was really tough, will have recovered by then,” he said. “As for myself, I put in the time [riding the race at a high level to build condition, but not to go too deep – ed.], while guys like Valverde and Rodriguez were in training.”

He’ll consequently hope to hit his peak form right on time, starting with Sunday’s Amstel Gold. He’ll encounter Sagan again there and likely square up against him on the Cauberg, continuing their duel. This time, he’ll hope to have the edge.

If he does succeed, it’ll be a big scalp to take. “He is a phenomenon,” he said of his younger rival, being generous in his praise. “Having an athlete like this is very important for our sport, which is in crisis. He is full of confidence. I know what it is like, I’ve also known times where you succeed with everything.”

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