He may have made the podium in 2011, repeating his performance of 2008, but question marks remain as to whether Philippe Gilbert (BMC) will be in the hunt for his first Milan–San Remo victory on Saturday week.
Gilbert, currently racing at Tirreno–Adriatico and over three minutes behind blue jersey wearer and 2011 Milan–San Remo winner Matt Goss (GreeEdge), has continually downplayed his own form over the opening few weeks of the 2012 season with little concern. However, the commentary surrounding his performances continues with the opening classic of the year just around the corner.
"His goals are later in the year," BMC team manager John Lelangue told Het Nieuwsblad. "This is an Olympic year, it pays to remember. The Walloon classics, the Tour, the Olympics and the World Cup. The season is long, but I assure you: he is not bad. He will be there in Milan-San Remo."
Others aren't as sure of the 2011 Velo d'Or winner's ability to turn his form around in such an authoritative manner.
Omega Pharma-Quick Step DS, Rik Van Slycke said that "a miracle" would be required for Gilbert to win Milan–San Remo.
"Look, you should never write off a champion," Van Slycke admitted. "He will be there for the goals he has set, like Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Amstel Gold Race, but the Primavera this year he cannot win... That conditional backlog of work will not go away... In a month he can shine again, but not in less than 10 days."
Gilbert's former Lotto teammate Jelle Vanendert said that having spent a fair portion of Thursday's stage riding next to the 29-year-old in the bunch, he didn't believe him to be in the same form as the same time last season.
"Phil is excited, we chatted good, but I also see that he is not in form," Vanendert said. "The Primavera is too early. He also pulls some weight with it, but hey, me too. This is normal for this time of year. "
Regardless, Gilbert continues to maintain his indifference to the subject, quoted in Het Nieuwsblad as joking: "It's panic in Belgium, hey."