Philippe Gilbert has spoken about the doping problems in cycling, saying he is part of a new generation that is good for the sport.
A tweet about Rabobank's decision to end its sponsorship of the professional road teams was also posted on Gilbert's personal Twitter feed just after the news broke but was quickly removed. The message said: "Very sad day for our sport Rabobank leave cycling after 17 years sponsoring. Thanks to the dopers!"
In the interview with SportsPro –the sports business magazine and website, carried out at the recent Sportel TV trade show in Monaco, Gilbert says he is optimistic about the new generation of riders.
"I think it’s up to us to prove to the world that cycling is more clean. I think the big problems are behind us," he said.
"It’s the older generation. Of course there are still some problems sometimes but it’s maybe less than one percent of the new cycling generation. I think we’re all pretty clean and we have a new style and a new image with riders like Wiggo, who’s pretty special, and it brings some new interest to cycling. We are a new generation and it’s good for our sport."
Gilbert suggested that Hein Verbruggen should resign if it emerges that he has been involved in the problems of the past.
"I don’t know, but if it’s true what I saw in the newspaper about Hein Verbruggen being so involved in those problems, for sure he has to leave," he said.
"I don’t know the processes though, and I heard this report is about 1,000 pages so it’s pretty hard for me to say something specific about this."
Gilbert automatically becomes a spokesman for cycling as world champion. He has never been afraid to speak out and discussed rider safety with SportPro.
"My favourite organiser, in terms of safety, is ASO. But there’s still a lot to do. We can do a lot better in other races. A lot of the races are very dangerous," he said.
"I did the Tour of Spain this year, for example, and it was so dangerous. We had cars parked on the road in the last five or six kilometres when we’re going full gas and everybody is taking a lot of risks. In 2012 I would have thought this wouldn’t happen."
Gilbert told SportPro that he hopes to stay with the BMC Racing Team after his current contract that last until 2014 and would like to stay in cycling when he eventually retires. He is only 30 but is already aware of a new generation of classics riders emerging.
"I have a contract until 2014 and then I hope to sign another three-year contract, maybe with BMC but I don’t know yet. And then we will see. But my family situation and my motivation will decide," he said.
"We have had [Peter] Sagan coming the last two years and we have six or seven like him coming in the next few years then it will be hard for me to fight against them. It would be great to stay in the sport world after I finish."
Gilbert has announced that his fan club will hold a special fan day on October 27 in the Belgian Ardennes. More information can be found at www.philippegilbert.com.