For the second time in the 2012 Vuelta a Espana, Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert (Team BMC) snapped up a stage win with a gutsy late attack, a victory which confirms that he is leaving the race in as good condition as he could possibly want.
It is the second win that Gilbert has taken in 2012 and also the second time that Gilbert has taken a stage so late in the Vuelta. In 2010, he also won in a very technical final in Toledo.
That year he finished 18th in the Worlds, this year, on a more favourable course, with considerable local support and on roads where he has won Amstel Gold twice, and without the long trip to Australia, the chances of a better result in the World’s look very good indeed.
“I’m very happy to win a second time in the Vuelta,” Gilbert confirmed, “the first part was pretty straightforward, the last part much more technical.”
“Just before we reached the city centre, there were a lot of corners and then the bunch split in two which made it a bit easier because there were less riders to deal with.”
“I didn’t know the final, I heard there were some cobbles, but there were more than ‘some’, there were a lot. Rather than 500 metres, two kilometres, it was very dangerous because we were going full gas.”
Fortunately, as Gilbert pointed out, he had three teammates with him, although Mauro Santambrogio was unlucky to crash. He then had to rely on former world champion Alessandro Ballan, who made a very long pull on the front, and Klaas Lodewyck to pull back a late attack.
“They didn’t panic, they rode tempo and didn’t kill me, which was great. They went at a speed which was perfect for me, and then I could finish off their work well.”
Asked if his condition was better now or in Barcelona, when he broke away with Joaquim Rodriguez, Gilbert said “I don’t know. It’s been a hard Vuelta, a lot of transfers and never easy to recover. We’ve spent a lot of time in the bus and in the team cars.”
“For everybody it’s the same, everybody was very tired after Wednesday and Thursday, but today we’re feeling much better.”
He agreed that the Vuelta, in any case, was “the best race for the world championships as preparation, because I can climb well and go at my own tempo and I’m never in the red. For a sprinter it’s too hard, and they suffer a lot. For me, though, this is perfect for the World’s” - and in a little over two weeks time, we’ll know exactly how perfect.