Gilbert raises expectations of strong year, says he’s had the best winter since his standout 2011 season
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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Gilbert raises expectations of strong year, says he’s had the best winter since his standout 2011 season

by VeloNation Press at 10:25 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics
 
Belgian commits to riding Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders in 2015

Philippe GilbertHe’s been below his top level for the past two seasons but Philippe Gilbert have given his supporters hope that he might yet return to his 2011 level. The Belgian rider was below par the following year but did manage to win two stages in the Vuelta a España plus the world road race championship title; last season, in the rainbow jersey, he again struggled to top the podium, and had to wait until the Vuelta again to take his first, and only, victory of the year.

“It was not my best season,” he admitted to Le Soir, “but a career consists of ups and downs. “I made some tactical mistakes, like wrong choices in my race programme. But I look forward – the future interests me more.”

Gilbert is now 31 years of age and knows that at his age, athletic powers can start to ebb slightly. However he said that he is encouraged by how things have gone lately, hinting that a strong season could lie ahead.

“My winter was perfect,” he said. “I will not be far from my level in 2011. “I had a real holiday after the season and almost shut myself off from the outside world. I have no worries, could train and am now a lot sharper, as with my best winters.”

In 2011 Gilbert had a staggering season, notching up 18 wins and dominating the UCI WorldTour ranking.

His wins include a stage in the Tour de France (where he also wore the yellow jersey), the Montepaschi Strade Bianche, Flèche Brabançonne, the treble of Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, as well as the Belgian time trial and road race championships, the Tour of Belgium, the San Sebastian Classic, the Grand Prix of Québec, the Grand Prix de Wallonie and the Ster ZLM Toer.

He also took stage wins in the Volta ao Algarve, Tirreno-Adriatico, the Tour of Belgium, the Ster ZLM Toer and the Eneco Tour of Benelux.

It was a superb haul, and contrasts utterly with his wins in 2012 (three) and last year (one).

However he said that he’s taking nothing for granted. He’s confident that he’ll be better than the past two seasons, but doesn’t want to tempt fate by predicting that he’ll equal that of three years ago. “I’ve learned that it's hard to match a fantastic season,” he said. “The following year, it’s especially mental. People should not forget that a rider loses a lot before he can win.”

The BMC Racing Team has released the early season programme for Gilbert. He will begin in the Tour of Qatar, which runs from February 9th to 14th, then will follow that up with the Tour of Oman (February 18th to 23rd), the Classic Sud Ardèche-Souvenir Francis Delpech (March 1st), Drôme Classic (March 2nd), Roma Maxima (March 9) and then Tirreno-Adriatico (March 12th -18th).

Gilbert has been accused of resting on his laurels after getting a lucrative three year contract towards the end of 2011. That deal was extended last season and he says this is also a factor. “I also wants to prove that I’m worth my contract renewal,” he said, showing that is on his mind.

Gilbert has tended to focus on the Ardennes Classics and also on Milan Sanremo. He said in the past that he’d like to win all of the Classics before the end of his career, and said that he’ll look to change things around a bit after this season.

If things to go plan for him, he’ll win Liège-Bastogne-Liège again [his home race] this season and perhaps take another one of the Ardennes Classics. But further ahead, he’s willing to put his regular programme and goals aside.

“I will be 33 years old [in 2015] and this is the time to do races that I have ignored until now. I will be at the start of Paris-Roubaix and the Flemish Classics,” he vowed.

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