Gilbert ambitious for Ardennes Classics
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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Gilbert ambitious for Ardennes Classics

by Bjorn Haake at 5:39 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics

Philippe Gilbert heads into the Ardennes Classic with good form and plenty of ambitions. Tomorrow's Amstel Gold race kicks off the week, followed by La Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday and Liège - Bastogne - Liège on the subsequent Sunday.

Gilbert belonged to the list of riders unable to follow Fabian Cancellara in the Tour of Flanders, but the Belgian's third place still shows that he is getting ready. "Amstel is somewhat similar to the Ronde van Vlaanderen, without the pavé," Gilbert told Belgian newspaper La Dernière Heure. "Small roads, lots of turns, accelerations and short hills."

Despite the route seemingly a good fit for the punchy Gilbert, his results often lacked. "It is bizarre, but it wasn't until last year that I managed to get a good placing," he said about his fourth place in the 2009 race. "Until then I always cracked just before the Eyserbosweg."

The Eyserbosweg is the 28th of the 31 climbs and is one of the most difficult. It is 1000 meters long, has an average gradient of 8.8 and a maximum of 16.7 percent.

Last year he managed to hang on and was still close behind the leading trio of Serguei Ivanov, Karsten Kroon and Robert Gesink when the final climb of the Cauberg was tackled. "I was lacking a teammate to close that gap of 70 or 80 Meters, otherwise..."

Gilbert is hopeful that his fifth place at the Brabantse Pijl on Wednesday is a good sign. "That was a very good warm-up on a parcours that resembles Amstel very well." In addition, the Omega Pharma-Lotto team did a reconn ride on Thursday.

Now the important Ardennes week can start for Gilbert. "I am less tired than last year at the same time." For his history-making fall last year - four starts and four wins from the Coppa Sabatini to the Giro di Lombardia - he had the Vuelta as base. Those quality miles are lacking now. "But I am in the condition I want to be in anyway, as I started training later this winter. I did everything to be ready at this very moment, and I improved week after week."

But Gilbert knows that victory is still difficult, no matter what. "I won't be disappointed if I make a mistake, as I know that I did everything I needed to do to be here."

Omega Pharma-Lotto has still not won a race this season, which could be a blessing in disguise. "The team is strong," Gilbert insists. "But not strong enough to carry the weight of favorite in a 250 kilometer-long race. It is not up to us to initiate the decision."

Not having the burden of favorite will be beneficial, while the support riders are ready. "[Jean-Christophe] Peraud is going super and [Jurgen] Van den Broeck as well - I was able to witness that in the reconnaissance ride."


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