After missing the Tour de France Philippe Gilbert has returned to racing in rude health with a win in the GP Pino Cerami, a stage in the Tour de la Wallonne, second place in San Sebastian and an aggressive performance in last Sunday’s RideLondon Classic. It’s all part of his assault on the rainbow jersey and the UCI Road World Championships, which take place next month in Richmond.
Gilbert is aiming to win the title for the second time in his career after a triumphant performance in 2012. His preparation this year will see him compete in a number of one-day events and short stages races, but with the Vuetla a Espana not in his race programme. With the Worlds taking place on the other side of the Atlantic, riders including Gilbert, are having to recalibrate their preparation.
“One of the main reasons is that I want to stay there and be acclimatized for the time chance,” Gilbert told Cyclingnews, as he explained why he would head to the United States early. “I always have big problems with this and I want to give myself the best possible chance.”
“I have the Giro in my legs already,” he added when discounting the option of the Vuelta. “The most important point is to have one Grand Tour in your legs as it keeps your level higher. I’m where I want to be right now. It’s perfect.”
One of Gilbert’s director sportives, Max Sciandri, knows all about the needed preparation that goes into a North American Worlds challenge. The British rider finished 31st the last time a Worlds was held in North America, back in Hamilton in 2003.
Cyclingnews picked Sciandri’s brains on the matter at the finish of RideLondon.
“I actually said to him just now that he should just look at Worlds and then Lombardia because the condition is there. That’s what I would do. I think he’s got really good form right now, he just needs to tailor his form into the Worlds.”
Sciandri, like Gilbert, dismissed the Vuelta preparation notion, especially with such a hard route at the race this year. With Gilbert already showing a high degree of form he and his team see little reason in sending him to a three-week race.
“The Vuelta can be good sometimes if you’re starting from a little bit behind in your preparation, if you’re building into it, but right now I think that he can hold it back with his form as he goes into the Worlds.”
“Back when I raced we had more races back then, maybe with races also being a bit longer at around 230, 250 kilometres in Italy. They were Worlds-length and I was a strong believer in doing those races as preparation for the Worlds. I still think that’s the best preparation for the Worlds because if you look at the Vuelta there are nine to ten uphill finishes and then there’s super hard stages like the one to Andora with 5,500ft of climbing.”
“If you go to the Vuelta and you’re building condition that’s okay but you could come out of 21 days of racing and it could be tough. I think that he’s made the right choice.”