Gilbert named Belgian's male athlete of the year

Four cyclists in the top five, Gilbert to aim for Milano-Sanremo in 2010

Already named Belgium's male cyclist of the year, Philippe Gilbert has now won the country's male athlete of the year award. He received the honour yesterday after winning an overwhelming majority of votes from Belgian sports journalists.

The Silence-Lotto rider received 865 points, with cyclo-cross rider Niels Albert second with 377 points. Cyclists filled four of the top five positions, with Tom Boonen fourth and Sven Nys fifth. Third was basketball player Didier Mbenga of the Los Angeles Lakers.

It was the third consecutive year that a cyclist has won the award. Albert took the title in 2008 and Boonen in 2007.

"It is a great reward and an important recognition," said Gilbert, according to the Belga news agency.. "I thank everyone who voted for me, but especially all my teammates, who sometimes work for more than two hundred kilometres to bring me in a good position for the win, and they do it often without recognition.”

Looking to the coming year, the 27-year-old added, “In 2010, I remain realistic. I know it difficult to improve, even just to do as good. It is difficult to further improve myself, but on the other hand, I have gained much experience. I would say that Milano-Sanremo is a goal for the coming season, but talking about it reduces my chances.”

Gilbert has seven victories this season, including a stage at the Giro d'Italia and the overall title in the Ster Elektrotoer. He finished the year with a streak of wins, including Paris-Tours, Giro di Lombardia, Giro del Piemonte and the Coppa Sabatini.

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