Gilbert named Belgian rider of the year

Wallonian edges out Boonen and Devolder, Cavendish picks up international award

Philippe Gilbert's success this season has been acknowledged by his compatriots, after he was named Belgian cyclist of the year at the Flandrien 2009 award ceremony in Belgium on Saturday. A jury of Belgian team managers and media personalities elected the Silence-Lotto rider as the nation's top professional rider, ahead of Quick Step teammates Tom Boonen and Stijn Devolder. Mark Cavendish (Columbia-HTC) was also named the top international professional.

Gilbert was awarded the accolade hours after he claimed the Giro di Lombardia, his fourth victory within a week and a half. Speaking via a video link from his team hotel in Italy, Gilbert expressed his satisfaction with his season.

"This is such an important trophy," said Gilbert, according to Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad. "This is a nice award for me to receive. I've worked hard this year for my results. That [my results are] appreciated by the rest of the pack is something I attach great importance to."

Gilbert's has enjoyed his most successful season as a professional, with seven victories. Saturday's triumph in Lombardia had been preceded by victories in the Giro del'Piamonte, Paris-Tours, Coppa Sabatini. He claimed a stage and the overall at the Ster Elektroder and a stage win at the Giro d'Italia.

It was the second year in a row that a Silence-Lotto rider has claimed the award. Gilbert's teammate Greg Van Avermaet had been the recipient 12 months previously.

Mark Cavendish's success this season was also acknowledged as he accepted the award for the International Flandrien of the year.

"It's a tremendous honour to get this award," Cavendish said afterwards, "something really important to me. You just look at the names of the people who've received this prize before, like Fabian Cancellara last year, and you can see how special it really is. As a kid I would watch Belgian bike races for hours on tv, and I love racing there now because the Belgians have a real appreciation for cycling and cyclists. But I could never have dreamed of getting an award like this one day, and it's a real honour to receive it."

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