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Philippe Gilbert (BMC) was a marked man.
It's about legs not luck, according to world champion
Leading what was left of the peloton up the final ascent of the Mur de Huy at La Flèche Wallonne seemed to spell the end of Philippe Gilbert's chances at claiming his second win in the mid-week Ardennes classic. BMC had led the charge for most of the day, protecting the world champion from the wind until finally leaving him to do his thing in the last kilometre. However, there was no burst of speed like in 2011 when he won a hat-trick of Ardennes classics and the former winner seemed to lose heart as Dani Moreno (Katusha) shot past. He would eventually finish 15th.
"I tried, but it was too long for me," said Gilbert to Nieuwsblad. "I just fell short and it's a pity but it is not new. Every year it is so. That [Mur de Huy] climb has always been difficult for me and it does not lie. The best rider wins."
Gilbert is yet to win a race in the white colours of the road race world champion, his best result coming just a little over a week ago at De Brabantse Pijl where he finished second to Peter Sagan (Cannondale) but according to the Walloon, "I'm getting better everyday. To win a race as difficult as Flèche is not about luck but about who has the best legs, said the BMC leader.
"I didn't ride the perfect race today. The perfect race, that is winning. But to win, if you are the favourite you have to be 100 percent. You cannot count on luck, you must have the good legs," he said before adding that he is aiming to have fully recovered for Sunday's La Doyenne - Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
It was two yea's ago that Gilbert took his first and only victory at Liège; a race that traverses through his home town and even passes his parents' residence. With such an emotional attachment to the fourth monument of the season the former winner will be feeling the pressure to perform and take home a much-needed result for the BMC squad. The US outfit has just collected a mere two podium places from the spring season with Greg Van Avermaet finishing third at Gent-Wevelgem before Gilbert's result at Brabantse Pijl last week.
"We knew that the other teams were watching us. Of course they also know that we have missed taking a win during the spring and we had something to prove. The team worked hard all day and I am grateful but that's normal. Too bad I couldn't finish it off in that last mile.
"I still miss a few percent. We now have a few days to recover which will be necessary because it was hot and it was a fast course [at Flèche]. The motivation is good. And [Liège] is my course. We'll see. But I hope in any case to be at a good level for Sunday."