Philippe Gilbert will have to try something before the famous Mur de Huy, which he judged "too hard" for him to go head to head against the favourites.
After the Amstel Gold, the Belgian returned home to Havelange, which he enjoyed a lot. "It is great to return home, because I am gone a lot," the Française des Jeux rider told La Dernière Heure. "I manage better at home. I feel better than at a hotel, where it is more difficult to control your nutrition and to rest correctly."
It wasn't until the day before the race that the rider from the Liège area met up again with his colleagues in Gembloux. Two more races and Gilbert will take a rest after a long spring campaign, with his highlight coming early - a win in Het Volk, with a super-impressive solo run of almost 50 kilometres. He scored three other victories (Mallorca, Soller and Samyn) and got third in La Classicissima. And he scored second place in the Brabantse Pijl, so even if the two final spring races don't pan out for him, he can be happy with his 2008 so far.
Last year, Gilbert finished 19th at Fléche Wallonne. Gilbert said that "La Flèche, it's special," about the race that is 'only' just a tad under 200 kilometres long and ends with one of the toughest walls in the classics, the Mur de Huy. "It's a short climb, but it is too hard for me. Normally, I cannot win. To achieve that, I will have to be on an exceptional day and I have to anticipate the race."
He gave an example of how it would have to be done and said that for him to win, it need to be done "like when Rik [Verbrugghe] won." The Belgian won in 2001 with five seconds over Ivan Basso, by going solo and hanging on. But that is not easy these days, as Gilbert explained. "The teams of the favourites lock up everything. If I arrive with the best at the bottom, I am beaten. I spoke to Jelle [Vanendert]; at 300m to go he finds new resources, but my legs are just dead." Vanendert finished as the best Belgian last year, 23 seconds behind winner Davide Rebellin. His 13th raised eyebrows with the French team and Vanendert, racing for Chocolade Jacques last year, is now Gilbert's team-mate.
It will be interesting to see if either of the two will win the title of best Belgian this time around and into what final total ranking that would translate to.