Belgium's Philippe Gilbert is full of confidence after his first training ride on the world championship road course in Melbourne, calling it “especially tough” and "good for me" because of the two short but steep climbs on each laps.
"The simulation ride on the indoor trainer that national coach Carlo Bomans showed me was bang on: It's not easy, there are two steep climbs, with the first one a lot like the slope that we had last year in the Belgian Championship in Aywaille,” he told Het Laatste Nieuws.
“Because of the technical and twisty start, we hit the foot of the second climb at a quite a low speed. That makes it especially tough. But good for me."
The rising finish straight also suits Gilbert, who won two stages at the recent Vuelta a Espana and wore the leader's red jersey for five stages. "I also saw the testing uphill finish.I think I've got a good chance," he said. "I know that I won't necessarily have to attack on the final climb and I also know I have a great opportunity to win a possible sprint.”
Belgian teammate Kevin De Weert also thinks Gilbert can win it. "This is a course tailored to Gilbert. I just hope that it's hard enough to cancel out the Hushovd-types," he said.
Gilbert was relaxed and fresh after a few days in Australia, even laughing off an attack from a bird while out training.
"I was riding along the coastline on my own when an unidentifiable object brushed past me. I actually looked around and saw a large bird flying away," he said.
"Now I understand why cyclists here ride around with antennae on their helmets. But I do not intend to do that."