Philippe Gilbert: "The route of the Ronde suits me."
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Friday, March 25, 2011

Philippe Gilbert: "The route of the Ronde suits me."

by Jered Gruber at 2:03 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Strade Bianche winner expects a bunch sprint in Wevelgem on Sunday

Speaking at a press conference today in Deinze, two days before the start of the next stop on the World Tour calendar, Gent-Wevelgem, Philippe Gilbert was at ease and comfortable fielding questions from the assembled media.

The recent third place finisher at Milano-Sanremo says that he's feeling good after the nearly 300 kilometer race. A quick recovery and a reconnaissance ride today on the route of April 3rd's big date with destiny, the Tour of Flanders, have left the Walloon with a fair bit of confidence.

"Things are going well with me," said the Omega Pharma-Lotto captain to De Morgen. "I recovered well from Milano-Sanremo. Today, I explored the route of the Ronde van Vlaanderen, and I must say that the route suits me."

Last year's Amstel Gold Race winner is looking forward to Vlaanderens Mooiste, but he doesn't have the same excitement looking toward Sunday's Gent Wevelgem.

"Gent-Wevelgem's route does not fit me like a glove, but publicity is important for the team.

It's an unexpected response from the rider who managed third place in the first of three successive monster Sunday races. A course change since last year has taken the previously 235 kilometer course and shortened it to just over 200, taking away some critical features that otherwise would have favored a rider like Gilbert.

"It is a different route than last year, when I unexpectedly finished third. This year, it's much shorter," said Gilbert to Sporza.

With Gilbert's obvious current fitness in mind and the fact that he doesn't see chances for himself in a break, there's only one other possibility.

"I predict that many riders will be present in the sprint for the finish line. A mass sprint seems unavoidable," said the Walloon to De Morgen.

A bunch kick in Wevelgem will turn attention to his two fast finishing teammates, Jürgen Roelandts and Andre Greipel. It will be an opportunity for either, but hopefully Greipel, to get a much needed major victory. He'll be going up a veritable army of fast finishers though, something that has given the German difficulties in the past.

Gilbert himself has ruled out the chance for success in Gent-Wevelgem, but he's not unhappy to participate. Overall, he feels that he has a solid spring schedule in front of him. Critically, he'll stay home from the traditional Flanders preparation race of the Three Days of De Panne in favor of a little extra peace and quiet. As he reminds everyone - his spring goes all the way through April 24th, Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

"Even though the course of Gent-Wevelgem does not suit me, I'm not upset about my program. I will not race the Three Days of De Panne-Koksijde. I will work quietly toward the Tour of Flanders in my own way. I have to dose my efforts in some way. Remember, I will continue through Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and that will be a very comprehensive program."

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