Gilbert could still do the Tour de France, team underlines benefits
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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Gilbert could still do the Tour de France, team underlines benefits

by VeloNation Press at 8:22 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Tour passes through Belgium

Omega Pharma Lotto’s directeur sportif Dirk De Wolf recently appeared to pour cold water on the idea of Philippe Gilbert riding this year’s Tour de France, saying that his type of rider would have “little to gain from the Tour,” but this sentiment has been contradicted by team general manager Marc Sergeant.

He appears to be leaning the other way, pointing out the commercial value of Gilbert taking part in cycling’s biggest event.

“I estimate the probability at 50 percent,” said Sergeant to Het Laaste Nieuws. “The publicity value of the Tour de France is not to be sneezed at.”

This year the race begins in Rotterdam and passes through Belgium before reaching France. Spending time in the country of the Omega Pharma-Lotto team’s sponsors means that the exposure would be considerable if the team does well. Sergeant referred to this, saying that the route made “a big difference to a Tour start in Beziers, for example.

“You can ask Marc Wauters what impact holding the yellow jersey at home has,” he said, speaking about the Belgian rider who won a stage and took the race lead in Antwerp in 2001. “But that is obviously not all…all the dominoes have to be in the correct order [for success to happen].”

Publicity aside, Sergeant acknowledged that Gilbert may have more to gain from missing the Tour and concentrating all his energies on the second half of the season. “Last year he proved himself of enormous commercial value in the autumn. In addition, he said that he wants to chase victory in the world ranking. The Tour will give him fewer points to pick up than the autumn Classics.” Gilbert also feels he has a chance of winning the world championship, and so is likely to want to ride the Vuelta a España as preparation.

The point Sergeant wants to make is that the door is still open, and that statements like De Wolf’s are premature.

“The ball is in his court. Whether it is yes or no, there is something to be said for both choices. After his strong spring, we have given him a break in May. He will return to racing in the Tour of Belgium. We can’t rush him now to make quick decisions.”

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