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2011 Clasica San Sebastian champion Philippe Gilbert flies the Belgian flag.
Belgian still undecided on 2012 team
With 13 wins to his name this season, it is hardly surprising that Gilbert has been the star attraction at a number of criteriums since the Tour finished, but the Belgian champion has acknowledged that he is in need of some time off after racing almost every day since the beginning of July. He will return to action at the Eneco Tour on August 8.
“Now, I’m looking forward to a bit of rest,” Gilbert told La Dernière Heure. “I’ve pinned a number on my back for almost thirty consecutive days and that begins to tell.”
Gilbert’s preparation for the Clasica San Sebastian was hardly ideal, given his busy schedule of travel and evening racing.
“The last few days have been particularly tiring, with five criteriums and a late plane journey to the Basque Country,” he said. “However, I was still fresh enough to do something great in the Clasica.”
While Gilbert’s winning move came on the outskirts of San Sebastian itself, the Alto de Jaizkibel was crucial to his victory. The race’s signature climb was tackled twice this year, something which Gilbert felt benefited him more than others.
“It was climbed slower and that suited me because in principle it’s a bit too long for me,” he explained. “I was able to get over it easily and even accelerate at the summit. But I waited until the last minute to make the decisive attack because the others were sitting on my wheel. Fortunately, I was able to count on a very strong and motivated Jelle Vanendert.”
Speculation over Gilbert’s future team has generated its share of column inches this season, but even though the August 1 deadline is approaching, the Belgian said that he is yet to reach a decision.
Gilbert has been closely linked with a move to BMC in 2012, but he continued to play his cards close to his chest on Saturday afternoon.
“The situation is quite complicated,” he said, according to L’Équipe. “We’re talking with a lot of teams, it won’t be easy to give an answer before August 1. I understand that the press wants to know where I’ll ride next year. I’ll announce it as quickly as possible, because it’s quite an uncomfortable situation for me.”
Gilbert’s more immediate future does appear to have been finalised, however. The Eneco Tour is likely to be his last stage race of the season, as he eschews the Vuelta a España in favour of the Vattenfall Cyclassics on August 21 and the GP de Québec and GP de Montréal in September.
As usual, the world championships and the Tour of Lombardy will be the key races in his late-season campaign. Gilbert is chasing a third consecutive victory in the Italian classic.