Philippe Gilbert: The 'Ardennes Triple' within reach
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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Philippe Gilbert: The 'Ardennes Triple' within reach

by VeloNation Press at 3:04 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Liège-Bastogne-Liège , Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne

Today's Amstel Gold race, won by Belgian Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), kicked off the Ardennes Classics week that includes La Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday and Liège-Bastogne-Liège next Sunday.  With his aggressive performance in the Dutch race, Gilbert has now put himself in with a chance to make history over the next seven days.

There has only been one rider in history to accomplish the "Triple" by winning all three of the Ardennes races in succession, Italian Davide Rebellin, who achieved the feat in 2004.  Only four riders have taken victory in all three races during their career; five-time Tour de France winners Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault, and Rebellin's compatriots Danilo Di Luca and Michele Bartoli.

The Belgian proved that he was capable of sustaining his top form last fall when he took an amazing string of wins that included the Coppa Sabatini, Paris-Tours, the Giro del Piemonte, and the Giro di Lombardia.  Gilbert rode the closing kilometers of the Amstel Gold Race aggressively, yet still had enough power to demolish the competition on the final ascent of the Cauburg.  His performance will leave the peloton worried as to whether they may experience a little bit of Déjà vu this week.

Gilbert said back in January that he needed to back off two months prior to  Milan-Sanremo because he was already lighter and more fit than anticipated.  He finished ninth in La Primavera, and then turned his focus towards only two of the cobbled Classics, Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders.  He finished third in both races, with second place on stage two of the Three Days of De Panne sandwiched in between.

He then skipped Paris-Roubaix and looked to the Ardennes Classics for his next goal. Last year he finished fourth in both the Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but historically hasn't performed as well in La Flèche Wallonne.  With its finish situated atop the third ascent of the the Mur de Huy, the finale of La Flèche Wallonne is slightly longer and steeper than the Cauberg.  Despite the past not favoring the Belgian, he is admittedly stronger than this time last year and, if he is also lighter, he could very well ride away with an Ardennes sweep.


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