Björn Leukemans flattered by Philippe Gilbert’s interest
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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Björn Leukemans flattered by Philippe Gilbert’s interest

by Ben Atkins at 9:30 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics
Vacansoleil-DCM’s classics captain would like to be Ardennes king’s lieutenant on the cobbles but is under contract next year

bjorn leukemansWith Philippe Gilbert’s contract with Omega Pharma-Lotto running out at the end of this year, the World number one has to make up his mind where he will be in 2012. Whether he chooses to stay put, at what may well simply be called Omega Pharma, join the new team set up by co-sponsor Lotto, or go elsewhere, he has reportedly declared that he would like compatriot Björn Leukemans at his side as he takes on the cobbled classics.

While Leukemans, who currently rides for Dutch team Vacansoleil-DCM, says is interested in the proposal, he also points out that it would not be without its complications.

“I’m flattered by Gilbert’s question, and I would be his lieutenant with pleasure, if I was significantly compensated,” he told the Gazet van Antwerpen, “but there are two problems: officially, I know noting about this, and also, I’m under contract to Vacansoleil-DCM until the end of 2012.

“The contract is redeemable,” he added, “but I’m not prepared to pay it myself.”

Gilbert has proclaimed that he wants to win all five of the Classic “Monuments”: Milano-Sanremo, the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Giro di Lombardia. He now has two of them in Liège and Lombardia, and is always among the favourites for Sanremo, but the races over the cobbles are where he is less dominant. While he has finished third in the Ronde twice, in 2009 and 2010, he has only ridden Paris-Roubaix once in his career.

bjorn leukemansLeukemans on the other hand is much more at home on the cobbles, having finished fourth in the 2007 edition of Paris-Roubaix and sixth in the 2010 edition; he also managed to battle his way to 13th this year, despite suffering three crashes, three punctures and being held up three times.

The two riders took on the closing stages of last month’s Brabantse Pijl side by side, indicating that in many ways they are very well matched, before Gilbert cruised to an easy sprint victory. With a little more than a third of the year over though, Leukemans feels it’s a little early for next year’s destination to be decided.

“I think Gilbert first needs to figure out where he’s going to ride next year and then submit his wish list to his employer,” he said.

Leukemans is currently taking a little time off from competition after a busy spring schedule; he is due to return on May 15th at a race in Verrebroek, just outside Antwerp, Belgium. Following that he will ride the Tours of Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland on the way to what he hopes will be his debut in the sport’s biggest race.

“Hopefully [I’m going] to the Tour,” he said, “because I’ve waited for so long.”


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