Fresh from a wonderful Vuelta a España, Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) has his sights set firmly on the world championships in Geelong and accepts that his form in Spain means that he is the pre-race favourite.
“It’s logical that Bettini, Pozzato and others like Tchmil, McEwen and Evans are saying that I’m the favourite and that the Belgian team will have to carry the weight of the race,” Gilbert told La Dernière Heure. “That doesn’t frighten me, our team is strong.”
Gilbert took two very impressive stage wins at the Vuelta, including a fine victory on Friday in Toledo, where he distanced Worlds rivals Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) and Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) in an uphill sprint not unlike the finish in Geelong.
“I’ve worked a lot for the Worlds,” Gilbert said. “For the last four months, I’ve been living and working for this rendezvous, and I want to get there at 100%.”
Belgian coach Carlo Bomans echoed Gilbert’s comments on his team but pointed out that his line-up will not be the only one with a duty to ride on the front.
“We have a fine team and we’ll take on our responsibilities, but there are other favourites too,” he said. “The group will have to bring Gilbert to the finish as best as possible.”
Bomans also sounded a word of warning to Gilbert, who was very active throughout the Vuelta. “He was impressive in Spain and everybody knows he’s in good form,” Bomans said. “Now he must above all recover because he never saved himself in Spain, he raced without a break.”