Marc Sergeant: Envisioning spring success for Gilbert and summertime glory for Van den Broeck
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Marc Sergeant: Envisioning spring success for Gilbert and summertime glory for Van den Broeck

by Jered Gruber at 1:10 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Omega Pharma-Lotto manager's two Belgian superstars look ready for their best years yet

At the start of a season, things have never looked quite so good for one of Marc Sergeant's incarnations of this year's Omega Pharma-Lotto team. Philippe Gilbert is seemingly ready to win any number of classics this spring, while Andre Greipel will get his long sought after shot at sprinting against the world's best sprinters. Come July, the options will be just as glorious with Jurgen Van den Broeck as a real podium contender along with Greipel and Gilbert in the wings. Things are certainly looking up for Belgium's other top team. Barring a blazing performance from Tom Boonen this spring, Omega Pharma-Lotto looks ready to step onto the throne as Belgium's preeminent team…if they haven't already.

The Omega Pharma-Lotto team is currently hard at work preparing for the new season in the winter training haven of Mallorca. A small contingent is already in Australia ahead of the upcoming Tour Down Under, but the rest, including Philippe Gilbert, are sharpening their knives ahead of the battles that await them.

It's reasonable to say that no rider is raising as much interest as Philippe Gilbert heading into the new season. With riders like Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara, you more or less know what they look like on top form, but each year, it seems that Gilbert takes another step up. By the end of last season, Gilbert was operating on a different plane. If he achieves that level again this spring, we could be looking at another dominator to succeed the 2010 version of the dominator, Fabian Cancellara, at least for Flanders and the Ardennes. It would be a tall order to fill if Cancellara and Boonen are once again at their best, but not out of the question. 

With so many expectations and possibilities on Gilbert's Walloon shoulders, the team is doing everything they can to ensure that Gilbert can be in perfect shape for virtually the entire month of April, and a bit of March as well.

Omega Pharma-Lotto team manager, Marc Sergeant, admits that it will be a long period of peak fitness if Gilbert hopes to make it from the spring's first Monument, La Primavera, to the spring's final Monument, La Doyenne. With that in mind, the preparation for the year's first Monument will hopefully take a slightly easier approach.

"It's a long time from Milano-Sanremo to Liege-Bastogne-Liege. [Gilbert's] program has changed. He will not participate in Paris-Nice, but Tirreno-Adriatico instead, where he'll be able to show himself well enough in a few finales," said the Belgian to

Looking beyond the Classics, where there is little to say from both Gilbert and his team's end: they hope to win everything they can, the real question becomes - will Gilbert take part in this summer's Tour de France.

"For the moment, he is in the selection for the Tour de France. This year, there are four or five stages that finish uphill, and there are significantly fewer sprints. So there are opportunities for Philippe Gilbert. Why wouldn't he? There are many arguments for his participation in the Tour, but anything is possible."

It does appear that it will be a tough opportunity to turn down for the rider who hails from the Ardennes. There will be more than a few finishes seemingly tailor made for the explosive rider - providing not only possibilities for stage victory, but also a legitimate chance at the Maillot Jaune.

While Gilbert's probabilities for success in the opening part of the Tour de France are the stuff of much talk, the team's major focus for the Grand Boucle will certainly be its 2010, fifth place overall finisher, Jurgen Van den Broeck.

For the 27 year old Belgian, the aim is simple: move up higher in the overall classification.

"For us, the goals are the same as last year. What has changed now is that he knows he can be fifth in the Tour de France. We will try to improve some details. Last year, he was able to follow the best. Now, he wants to move up in the standings, he must make a difference compared to the others. We have already discussed it, and he wants to attack."

Apart from the enchanted lands of the Tour de France final podium, Sergeant points out that there's one thing Van den Broeck hopes to rectify in the coming year: winning his first professional race.

"To you, he will say that it does not bother him, but I know that internally, it does. He wants to win."

It's a bit scary to think what might be possible if Gilbert, Van den Broeck, and Greipel can all manage to perform at their best with good health and a bit of good luck in 2011. Then again, that goes for most of the top riders, doesn't it?


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