Two-time champion, Philippe Gilbert (BMC) has given his seal of approval for the new Il Lombardia course. For this weekend’s race, the finish has moved from Como back to Bergamo, making for a much tougher conclusion. The riders have been getting their first look at the new course, as they arrive in Lombardy. It is vastly different to the one that he rode to victory on but it has received two thumbs up from the former world champion.
“For me, the new course is very special. It’s almost completely different from past years and it’s quite technical,” Gilbert told Belgian broadcaster Sporza. "(Joaquim) Rodriguez is undoubtedly the favourite. Behind him I put (Alberto) Contador and (Alejandro) Valverde, who are still fighting for the leading position in the world ranking.”
Rodríguez has won the last two editions of the race, with almost identical attacks in the closing kilometres. Gilbert’s two victories also came in successive years and understandably he has fond memories of the race. “This is where it all started for me," he said. "In 2009, I won my first monument in Lombardy. My triumph in 2010, I personally found it a lot more impressive.”
Gilbert has been without a victory since the middle of June where he took the general classification at the Ster ZLM Toer. The Belgian rider comes to the race after a strong performance at the World Championships. He finished seventh, after working for teammate Greg Van Avermaet – who finished fifth.
“I'm still as motivated at the start of a race as ever. Sunday will be no different, especially since I left with Ponferrada with confidence,” said Gilbert. Clearly still frustrated by some of the tactics of the previous week, he was a little terser when asked his opinion on Belgium’s performance at the Worlds, where they got two riders in the top 10 but failed to take a medal.
“I won’t speak about the World Championships. I have fulfilled my duty for the Belgian national team and for my sponsor,” he said bluntly.