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Gilbert optimistic about about chances at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

By:
Daniel Benson
Published:
February 25, 2011, 19:56 GMT,
Updated:
February 25, 2011, 20:02 GMT
Edition:
First Edition Cycling News, Saturday, February 26, 2011
Race:
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Elite
Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma - Lotto) defends his jersey during stage 2.

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma - Lotto) defends his jersey during stage 2.

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Lotto hopes to carry forward momentum from early season success

Despite not being in top condition Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma Lotto) believes that he has enough in the tank to win Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. The Belgian has won the event twice in the past and despite his modest reflection on his form, has already won this season - taking a stage at the recent Tour of Algarve.

"You don't need to be 100 per cent to win tomorrow. You need good condition and a lot of kilometres in your legs but not your best top form," Gilbert told Cyclingnews.

"I've got good feelings and a good team. We know the circuit now, too. All I know is that I won't be saving my form. I'm here to race and I'll give everything tomorrow."

Tomorrow's race marks the first real test for the Classics specialists and despite Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) and Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervelo) opting to skip the race and train, the majority of one-day riders are present. Gilbert, who has consistently improved in recent years, thinks that there's no clear favourite and that up to 10 riders are in with a chance of winning.

"I was happy when I heard that Haussler was not on the start list because for me he was the big favourite. I think that if he came here he'd have a big chance of winning. It's all good for me though."

"But seriously, there's not one guy above the rest. There are maybe 10 at the same level and you can look at guys like Lars Boom, Juan Antonio Flecha, and Tom Boonen as the key player. Rabobank, Quickstep and Garmin-Cervelo are all strong but of course there's us too. It should be a great fight out there on the road."

Lotto heads into Saturday's race in a far more confident and secure state of mind than last year, having already recorded two wins this season courtesy of Gilbert and his new teammate, Andre Greipel, who also won in Algarve.

Last year the team had to wait until April's Amstel Gold Race before recording its first win.

"They're not big victories but they're still victories," said Gilbert.

"At the end of the day you just have to remember that being number one in a race is still a win so it's good for me the other riders and all the staff. We just have to carry on that momentum, starting with tomorrow."

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