It seems that preparing the European road season in Australia is not a bad idea at all. Belgian Philippe Gilbert came back from the Tour Down Under recently and immediately opened his 2008 palmarès by taking the first of the five races of the Mallorca Challenge on the Balearic island.
A few days before the event started, Gilbert was already in Mallorca to escape the Northern Europe winter temperatures, cope with his jet lag, train some more and reckon the roads of the Challenge, on which he had set some objectives. "I'm one of those riders who don't race much, so I want to win every time," he told French velo101. "It's not good to have too much form too soon, but what you score, is achieved."
The 25 year-old is happy with his current fitness. "I'm in good shape, compared to last year when I had the surgery on my leg [doctors removed a melanoma, which caused him to postpone his season start - ed.]. Now, I'm right on time," said Gilbert, who is hoping this will help him achieve his goals in 2008.
"My first objectives are a stage win in Paris-Nice," he continued. "I won't think of the overall, as I'll have Milano-Sanremo on my mind, where I hope to win. I have the capacities to do it. After that, I will do all the Classics except Paris-Roubaix, then the Tour de France, the Olympics, the Vuelta and the Worlds. For the two Grand Tours, my objective will be to win a stage and to prepare for the Worlds and the Olympics. After the Worlds, there will be Paris-Tours, always with the same longing..."
The 2006 Het Volk winner would love to add a Belgian Classic to his palmarès ("Any one of them would do"), but also has the Olympic road race on his to-do list this year. "Event-wise, the Olympics are ranked higher than the Worlds, even if the Worlds are more important within cycling," the Française des Jeux rider continued. "The Olympic champion doesn't have a jersey to wear. One thing's for sure: if I'm lucky enough to become Olympic champion, I'd wear a jersey to show it, even if I have to pay a fine at each race start!"
Also see: An interview with Philippe Gilbert in Australia, January 9, 2008.