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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma Lotto) celebrates victory
Belgian champion hits out at his critics
Following the confirmation of his move to BMC for 2012, Philippe Gilbert has spoken about the reasons why he preferred to join the sports latest super team instead of staying with a Belgian team.
Holding little back, Gilbert gave two reasons for his decision: less pressure to repeat his amazing 2011 season than at the new Omega Pharma-Quick Step team and a better, more professional atmosphere at BMC alongside Thor Hushovd, Cadel Evans and Taylor Phinney.
“I’ve chosen the best team in the world”, Gilbert told the Belgian Le Soir newspaper. “The team answered all my hopes and desires about the length of the contract (three years) and is extremely professional.”
Gilbert explained that the BMC management treated him “as a neo-pro, not as the world number one”, which reassured him during negotiations. He recalled how he suffered under the huge pressure of being the only leader of the Francaise des Jeux in 2007. He points out that he might not have the same success in 2012 as this year and he doesn’t want to carry the weight of a whole team on his shoulders.
“I quickly realised it’s better to be one of many good riders in a dream team instead of racing in a squad where all the weight of responsibility is on your shoulders,” he said.
“Cadel has become a true rider, self confident and fully mature,” he said, seemingly happy to be back alongside Evans after they spent two years in the same team in 2008 and 2009.
A decision fuelled by anger
Gilbert’s decision to turn his back on a Belgian team and instead join the Swiss-based US-registered squad has not gone down well in Belgium but he is convinced he has made the right decision.
The Belgian national champion has already vented his anger about learning the Omega Pharma and Quick Step merge in the media. Het Nieuwsblad revealed that was allegedly asked to pay 1.5 million Euro in order to end his contract with the Omega Pharma team management company.
“I felt it like a threat, like ‘If you leave, you pay’. I’ve been treated like scum and that evening, I made my decision, which was certainly affected by my anger,” he said.