On the category 3 climb towards the ski resort of Super-Besse in the Sancy massif, Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) showed that he's planning to keep playing a major role in the 2011 Tour de France. The Belgian champion blasted away on the final climb just as he did during his winning move on the Mont des Alouettes on stage one. Although he failed to catch stage winner Rui Costa (Movistar), he put three seconds into the peloton, which was led home by Cadel Evans (BMC), and Gilbert is now back in the green jersey.
“That finish was perfect for me,” Gilbert said while gasping for air right after crossing the line. It turned out that during the last kilometres he had a mechanical problem that kept him from attacking earlier.
“This climb to Super-Besse isn't too steep and you can ride it on the big ring. Twice I tried to accelerate,” Gilbert said. “The first time I did it on the small ring but I couldn't shift to the big ring because due to the bad weather some dirt must have gotten into my derailleur. That's why I had to sit back to shift and attack at full force. That shift worked and I was gone.”
Gilbert’s consistency in the Tour’s opening week has seen him move back into the green jersey, and he acknowledged that he has enjoyed fine form throughout 2011.
“For a few months in a row I have been in super form,” he said. “But sadly Rui Costa was too far away and anything more than a second place wasn't possible today.”
Had the peloton been a little closer to Costa at the foot of the final climb, the stage win could have been a possibility, but Gilbert’s teammate and general classification rider Jurgen Van den Broeck explained that he didn’t have good legs in the finale, which might explain why the team didn't put the hammer down earlier. However, Gilbert refused to blame his squad for that.
“I have to thank my team for the work during the stage,” he said. “They did that perfectly.”
Once again he swaps his tricolour jersey of Belgian champion for the Tour's green jersey, which he regained from Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar). Gilbert took 26 points back on the Spaniard, one of them at the intermediate sprint. “Of course I'm pleased with the green jersey,” he said. “Can I keep it until Paris? That I don't know. No stress, we'll see.”