Philippe Gilbert (Omega-Pharma Lotto) has thrown his support behind a ban on race radios. The Classics specialist was speaking at the team’s first press conference of the new season in Mallorca, Spain, where he also outlined his goals for the year.
Last week the Cyclistes Professionels Associés (CPA) announced that it had canvassed opinions from the pro peloton, with some 344 riders from across Europe questioned on the matter. Only 40 backed the decision to ban radios, leaving the likes of Gilbert in the minority.
Radios were banned during last year’s Worlds in Geelong, Australia and Gilbert felt comfortable with the decision.
“It was nice in Geelong, I liked it. For me, if I could decide, I would race without them. I can see a race, feel a race, so I don’t need it. I won Lombardia without a radio. I was in contact with my teammates and not with the car, and when you have a good vibe with your teammates it’s more important than the one with your directeur sportif. The most important relationship is the one you have with your teammates,” Gilbert told Cyclingnews.
“Often in races I start with a radio but most of the times I take it off. A lot of riders want the radios because it makes them feel safe but I don’t understand that. I respect it, but I don’t understand. They say it’s dangerous because you don’t know what’s coming up or around the corner but it’s also dangerous when the directeurs tell everyone that they need to be in the first ten coming into a tricky corner. Everyone goes full gas trying to move to the front.”
Classics, Tour and then the Worlds
Gilbert is embarking on perhaps his most important season as a professional bike rider. After two highly successful campaigns with Lotto he has announced a race programme that will see him looking to hit peak form three times in a calendar year – a rarity for the modern day professional.
Milan-San Remo will be the first target on his radar – although he admits that he will not head into the race at 100 per cent of his form. From there, he will concentrate on the Spring Classics – Flanders, Liège and Amstel – before a short rest and a tilt at the Tour de France, where he will look to win a stage and help Jurgen Van Den Broeck in the overall. Another rest period will follow, before racing the Vuelta a España and building towards a final peak for the Worlds and the Tour of Lombardy.
At 28, the Belgian should be entering his height of his physical form and thus feels that he is capable of such a long season.
“It’s possible. I’ll be 29 in July and these are the strongest moments of my life so it’s not a problem doing a big season. I want to win every Classic before I retire and the Worlds too, and I’ve always had big dreams in cycling. There’s a long way to go though, I know that,” he told Cyclingnews.
“I want to be okay in San Remo – not at 100 per cent but okay. Especially because it’s a race that you can never be sure of winning, especially for someone like me. When you’re a sprinter you can focus totally on San Remo but when you’re like me it’s difficult. If there’s a headwind it’s hard to break away and now with the finish so far from the final climb it’s pretty difficult.”
As for the Tour, Gilbert is well aware of the lofty claims that he can one day aim for yellow. Those claims came from five-time winner and cycling legend Eddy Merckx.
“All that talk came from Merckx. He said it one day and that’s a great compliment from someone like that, but I don’t know… I’ve always had problems at altitude so I’d really need to work on that. Everything is possible but right now it’s not something I want to focus on. Right now it’s about the Classics and the Worlds and doing the Tour to try and win a stage,” he said.