Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) got the most important week of his season off to the perfect start with an impressive victory at Amstel Gold Race on Sunday, and the Belgian is in confident mood as he faces into the remainder of his Ardennes campaign.
Gilbert’s Amstel triumph was his second consecutive win in the Dutch event and he will also ride Wednesday's Fleche-Wallonne, but Easter Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège is the race he covets above all others. Moral is high in the Omega Pharma-Lotto camp ahead of the big day.
“Since the finish of the Tour of Lombardy, I’ve said that I wanted to be ready this week,” Gilbert told La Dernière Heure. “And well, I am! I’ve worked an awful lot for that, as has my team, and I know I can count on them. I have a lot of confidence.”
Born a stone’s throw from the route of La Doyenne, Gilbert is more aware than most of the intricacies of the race, and he is mindful of the need to conserve his energy ahead of the testing finale. The uphill finish at Ans seems well-suited to Gilbert’s characteristics and he will be aiming to make the difference in the closing stages of the classic.
“I don’t want to waste a pedal strokes before getting to Roches-aux-Faucons,” he explained. “In order to do that, I’m counting on my teammates, and as they showed on Sunday, they are well capable of bringing me to the foot of Saint-Nicolas [the race’s penultimate climb].”
Looking further on into the season, Gilbert has confirmed he will take part in the Tour de France for the first time since 2008.
“When the route was unveiled, Philippe was enthusiastic about it, but he preferred to get to the Classics before committing to it,” team manager Marc Sergeant told Belgian media. “His dream? To win a stage and wear the yellow jersey. At the Tour he will be one of our leaders, with Greipel and Van den Broeck.”