Gilbert shuns Olympic team opening

Philippe Gilbert has decided to skip August's Olympic Games in Beijing, China to prepare for the UCI...

Philippe Gilbert has decided to skip August's Olympic Games in Beijing, China to prepare for the UCI World Road Championships in Varese, Italy. The Française des Jeux leader feels that the course of the road race will be too difficult for him to play a role.

"I have decided not to accept my position on the team for Beijing," the Belgian told Sporza. "This decision was not easy, but I thought about it for a long time and spoke with the national coach for a half hour [about it]."

The Belgian's decision will free up the final half of 2008, allowing him to focus on his main goals for the season. Gilbert hopes to do well at the Tour de France and will also contest the Vuelta a España.

"Now I can go to the Tour de France with ambitions of doing well, recuperate in August, go to the Vuelta and then the Worlds."

Gilbert started his season at Australia's Tour Down Under, where he claimed the event's first King of the Mountains jersey as a ProTour event. From there the Belgian has continued his form to claim victory at the Vuelta a Mallorca, including two stage wins, Omloop Het Volk and Le Samyn while he also claimed podium finishes at Milano-Sanremo and Brabantse Pijl.

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