Amstel winner Gilbert extends with Omega Pharma-Lotto until 2012
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Monday, April 19, 2010

Amstel winner Gilbert extends with Omega Pharma-Lotto until 2012

by Conal Andrews at 7:15 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Amstel Gold Race
 

Philippe Gilbert and the Omega Pharma Lotto team have agreed terms for the Amstel Gold winner to stay an additional season with the team, meaning that the Belgian will compete in its colours at least until the end of 2012.

The 27 year old was clearly the strongest rider in yesterday’s Classic, going on the attack in the closing stages, being caught by other race favourites, yet still having the strength to tear clear of the front group on the final climb of the Cauberg.

He unleashed a remarkable acceleration to open a large gap over the other would-be winners, showing in a few turns of the pedals that he could not be beaten. In fact, his jump was so impressive that he had time to coast the last 50 metres, celebrating long before the line.

The victory salvaged the spring campaign of the Omega Pharma-Lotto squad, which until now had been winless. In fact, it’s been six months since one of their riders stood on top of a podium; the last to do so was also Gilbert, who won the Tour of Lombardy on 17th October last year. This was the fourth in an unbeaten sequence for the Belgian, who also won Paris-Tour, the Coppa Sabatini and the Giro del Piemonte.

In all he took seven out of the team’s twelve wins last year, underlining his importance to the squad.

The team wants to avoid any chance that the rider could leave the team for another. They encountered that problem last year when Cadel Evans suddenly announced that he was going to Team BMC; Evans was, like Gilbert, a major part of the team’s success and that was an unexpected blow.

"Philip is able to sign a two-year extension with the team, until December 31, 2012", said his agent Eddie Billen yesterday, according to DH.be. The negotiations had started during Paris-Nice and the team intends to further strengthen the team. It is also rumoured to be interested in André Greipel, the HTC Columbia sprinter.

Prior to yesterday, Gilbert had a contract until the end of next season, with options for an additional year.

The Walloon has the chance to complete an extremely rare Ardennes treble this week, with Flèche Wallonne taking place on Wednesday and Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday. The only other rider to succeed in taking the treble in one season was Davide Rebellin, who achieved the feat in 2004.

Gilbert has played down his chances slightly, saying that the finish of Flèche Wallonne doesn’t suit him as well as that of the Amstel Gold Race. That said, he’s determined to give it a shot and, after yesterday, few would bet against him fighting it out for the win once more.

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