Although pleased with his condition, Gilbert explained that his primary aim at the Belgian race is to build form for his next major objective, the Tour de France.
“In the minds of the people, it’s become normal that I win, but it’s not always possible!” Gilbert told La Dernière Heure. “Winning isn’t essential for me at the Tour of Belgium. The goal is to find the right sensations, to find rhythm, a higher cadence than in training, even if I have worked well in recent weeks.”
With the first week of the Tour de France featuring hilltop finishes and some rugged terrain, Gilbet has decided to return to the French race for the first time since 2008, with an eye to taking the yellow jersey early on.
“This Tour of Belgium, like the Ster Elektrotoer, should help me to be at 100 per cent for the Tour de France,” he said. “But if I can win, I won’t deny myself.”
Although Gilbert has not raced since his Ardennes success, he explained that his break was taken with the Tour in mind, and not because he needed a rest. After reconnoitering the Worlds course in Copenhagen in April, Gilbert took a week off the bike before resuming training.
“I didn’t really need that period of rest because I didn’t feel tired,” he said. “But if I want to have another peak of form for the Tour de France, it was necessary to take a break and rest. During that period, I stayed at home in Monaco, which did me good because since January I’d been away constantly for three months. But I’ve also worked well during this period.”
While the Tour is the next major rendezvous on Gilbert’s agenda, he will be looking to put on a show in the Tour of Belgium’s Walloon stage to Eupen.
“It’s hard but it’s not Liège-Bastogne-Liège either,” he said. “But we’re the best team in Belgium and on the national tour, you have to be up there. We will be complete, with Greipel there for the sprints, but it won’t necessarily be up to us to take the race in hand.”