Philippe Gilbert to ride the Tour de France
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Monday, April 18, 2011

Philippe Gilbert to ride the Tour de France

by Ben Atkins at 3:08 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Spring Classics, Amstel Gold Race
 
Classics star wants to get himself a yellow jersey

philippe gilbertThe day after winning his second consecutive edition of the Amstel Gold Race, classics king Philippe Gilbert (OmegaPharma-Lotto) has announced that he intends to ride the Tour de France in July, according to Sporza. In the increasingly specialised modern peloton the Belgian is one of the World’s foremost one-day riders and, while many Classics specialists often ride the Grand Tours in search of stage victories, most eschew the high-pressure circus of the Tour.

“I think it’s really good news,” said OmegaPharma-Lotto manager Marc Sergeant. “When the route of the Tour was announced Philippe said he liked it a lot; he wanted to wait until after the spring to decide, but he has made up his mind already.

"Such a leadership figure that also means something in the peloton, even more than ‘something’, so you don't say no to the Tour if they want to ride it. Philippe wants a stage win and the yellow jersey. That's difficult, but he has a chance."

Gilbert last rode the Tour in 2008, when he was still riding with the Française des Jeux team, where he’d spent his entire career up to that point; he finished second in the opening stage between Brest and Plumelec behind then Spanish champion Alejandro Valverde. The opening stage of this year’s race, between the Passage du Gois and the Mont des Alouettes, promises to provide a similar uphill finish, where the Belgian excels.

Although he has passed over the Tour in recent years, he rode the Vuelta a España last year and won two stages; in 2009 he rode both the Giro d’Italia, winning the penultimate stage, and the Vuelta.

Sergeant meanwhile, is still very impressed by his rider’s Amstel victory.

“That was a real feat by Gilbert,” he said. “We are currently looking at a Gilbert at cruising speed, who knows what he can do and how or when he can do it. He has become professional in every aspect since he came to us; since then he has only got better.”

With Gilbert at the Tour there may be a danger of the team’s ambitions being diluted; last year Jurgen Van Den Broeck became the first Belgian to finish in the top-five in 24 years, while over the winter the team signed German sprinter André Greipel. Sergeant, however, sees no problems here.

“I don’t expect that with Philippe Gilbert, André Greipel and Jurgen Van Den Broeck we will have too many leaders in the Tour,” he said. “The team spirit is good and everyone knows his role.”

One rider that Sergeant hopes to have at his disposal for the Tour will be Mario Aerts, who is about to undergo minor heart surgery. Aerts has had a minor heart murmur for many years, but recently it has worsened and so he has decided to act upon it.

He will be able to resume light training, but his participation in the Tour is far from certain.

“Aerts is more than a rider,” said Sergeant. “He reads the race well and the psychological factor of having him as a roommate is very important for Jurgen Van Den Broeck. Such a person in the team is difficult to replace.”

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