After his victory in Brabantse Pijl and again at Amstel Gold Race, Gilbert was the top favourite for a repeat of his 2011 victory, and a third win in the space of a week. However, as the former world champion told reporters just after the line, taking the victory was all but impossible after he found himself badly positioned at the foot of the Mur de Huy.
“It was very fast and very tough, with lots of attacks and action and you had to be well placed. I wasn’t very well placed and that was a mistake and you pay a high price for that here,” Gilbert said.
“It was very hard to make up the positions. I was hoping they’d started the climb too fast. I accelerated near the top and I passed five or six riders, but no more than that.”
The change in the race route, Gilbert said, made for a “much faster course in general. The lack of climbs and very open roads early on made it a lot quicker I think.” There was also virtually no wind, dry weather, which as Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) pointed out, made for a perfect day’s racing.
Asked by a radio reporter what BMC’s plan for the race had been, Gilbert paused for a moment before answering “to try to win.” This was not just stating the obvious: BMC had worked hard, alongside Katusha, in the first three quarters of the course to ensure their star was in the right position at the foot of the Mur.
However, the final, crucial part of the plan went askew. On Sunday at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, though, Gilbert may well put that right - and if he does so, then Wednesday’s error will be quickly forgotten.