Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) is aiming to reach top form a couple of weeks earlier than usual in 2011, at the Tour of Flanders. The Belgian finished third in the event last season and is keen to produce his best in a race that he believes rewards the strongest rider.
"If you get there in super condition, contrary to Milan-San Remo for example, you are certain to finish in the top five at the Ronde," Gilbert told dhnet.be. "That rule also applies for Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Classic that I dream of the most."
Gilbert had a phenomenally consistent spring Classics campaign in 2010, finishing on the podium in Flanders, Liège and Gent-Wevelgem, as well as securing top 10 places in Milan-San Remo, Flèche Wallone and Brabantse Pijl. His considerable efforts were rewarded with just one spring Classic victory, however, atop the Cauberg in the Amstel Gold Race.
Nonetheless, Gilbert finished his season with another monument victory at the Tour of Lombardy and he is again chasing Classics glory on the cobbles, in the Ardennes and in Italy in 2011.
"I know that I won't win two Classics every year," he said, and explained that he is especially keen to top the podium in one or more of three races that he has yet to win. "Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and Liège-Bastogne-Liège are my primary objectives to come."
Gilbert turns 29 in July and he is aware that he is now approaching the zenith of his powers. Feted for his work ethic by no less a figure than Eddy Merckx last week, the Belgian is also confident that if he performs to his own expectation, the results will follow.
"If I can stay in good health and avoid crashes, then the rest will come by itself," he said.
Gilbert's approach to the Classics will be slightly modified in 2011 as he swaps the Arabian peninsula for the Iberian one. His Omega Pharma-Lotto team will not be present at the Tours of Qatar and Oman, and Gilbert will instead aim to build form at the Challenge Mallorca and the Volta ao Algarve. He will also forgo Paris-Nice in favour of Tirreno-Adriatico.