World champion on contract extension and chasing stages at the Tour
Tuesday's announcement that Philippe Gilbert had extended his contract with BMC by a further two years raised some eyebrows, given the rumours of discord that had been finding their way into the press since the beginning of the Tour de France, but the world champion has insisted that such whispers were misplaced.
Gilbert, who had already has a year to run on his existing contract with BMC has extended their agreement by a further two years, meaning that he will remain in the court of Andy Rihs until the end of 2016.
"A lot of things have been written and said since the start of the Tour and I've tried to play it down, but within the team there aren't any problems and I think they have a lot of ambitions for me to succeed in the Classics and all of the one-day races," Gilbert told reporters after Wednesday's Tour de France stage 11 time trial to Mont-Saint-Michel.
Gilbert was the marquee signing of BMC's Galactico-style transfer campaign ahead of the 2012 season, but the Belgian has won just three races since making the switch. The last of those, of course, was his emphatic world championships victory in Valkenburg last year but Gilbert has been left disappointed in two successive Spring Classics campaigns, where the talent-packed roster has failed to add up to the sum of its considerable parts.
"I know this team has good material and good staff, and has big potential but we can still do better," Gilbert said. "We're still friends, we're still confident for the future and I'm confident we can do better."
Gilbert lined up at the Tour with the stated aim of aiding Cadel Evans' bid for overall honours and beginning his own build-up to the defence of his world title in Florence. Still without a win since taking possession of the rainbow jersey last September, Gilbert admitted that he was disappointed not to have been given more support in his bid to open his account during the opening stages of the Tour.
"I was expecting a little bit more help especially in Corsica because I think there was a big chance there for me to have a stage win but I can understand that the big goal of the team is the GC even if it's hard now, but we never know," Gilbert said.
Coming into Wednesday's time trial, Evans trailed the yellow jersey of Chris Froome by 4:36, while Tejay van Garderen's hopes of repeating his fifth place finish of 12 months ago disappeared on the opening day in the mountains. In theory, Gilbert should begin to enjoy greater freedom within his BMC team in the second week of the race.
"Maybe Cadel can be in a breakaway one day but when you have won the Tour, it's hard to get in a breakaway," Gilbert said. "He will still try but now we will have maybe a little bit more freedom with Tejay and me, and even other riders, so we can try something too."
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