Gilbert targets first win at Milan-San Remo

Belgian hoping to return to victory at Tour de France

Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) will begin his 2015 campaign with a his debut at the Dubai Tour before heading over to the Tour of Qatar a day after racing closes. However, he will make Milan-San Remo his first big target of the 2015 season. San Remo is one of the few early season races that Gilbert is yet to win but he believes that the 2015 course will give him a chance.

"I would like to do well in San Remo now they've fixed the parcours," he said during a meeting with the media at the team's training camp in Dénia, Spain. "It's back on the old one, the one I like the most."

Gilbert knows the roads well around San Remo, which are a short 40 kilometre ride from his home in Monaco. He's always put in strong performances at the race, finishing sixth on his first attempt – when the race used to finish on the Via Roma, as it will in 2015. He has twice finished third (in 2008 and 2011), his best performance at the event. Gilbert says that he prefers the quicker nature of the course, which he believes makes for a tougher race.

"It's like Paris-Tours, it's not really hard but the speed makes it hard," he explained. "It's easier, and because it's easier, we go faster but that also makes it a little harder. When you have climbs, everyone is scared of those climbs and everyone is breaking.

"Now, with the Le Mànie, it is too easy you just go fast in the climb and you can take five minutes back to the breakaway and there's just three guys together which is much easier."

Ardennes v Flanders

For the second year running, Gilbert will skip the cobbled classics to ensure that he is fresh and ready for the Ardennes Classics. In an interview with the Belgian media in November, Gilbert speculated about a return to the cobbles in the future but he says, clearly irritated his thoughts were misinterpreted, that it wasn't going to be any time soon.

"I had an interview and I was saying that I would like to go again there but everyone took it like I was saying next year I would go. Apparently they could not translate or see what I was saying. For sure I would like to go again, but I am not finishing my career next year," he said.

Gilbert has form on the cobbles with two podiums at the Tour of Flanders. After years of riding both the pavé and the Ardennes, the team removed them from his calendar last year and, while he still can, he wants to make the most of Liège-Bastogne- Liège and Il Lombardia. That means forsaking the cobbles for the foreseeable future. However, he believes that time will bring him back to the Flemish roads before he hangs up his wheels.

"One of the things that you lose with age is explosivity. You need it less in Flanders and Roubaix, maybe when I lose this then I will do Flanders or Roubaix," said Gilbert. "If you go very hard on those races then I don't know if you can go again in the next week at Amstel and Liège. You can always do it, but I don't know if you can do it for the win."

Come July, Gilbert hopes that his experience and success at the Ardennes Classic can help him to a stage win at the Tour de France. After the Grand Départ in the Netherlands, the race will move south to Belgium for a stage finish on the Mur de Huy. The Belgian already has previous on the climb with his victory at Flèche Wallonne in 2011 and the stage immediately caught his eye when the route was announced back in October. "When they did the Tour presentation that was the first thing that I was thinking. I would like to be there and have a chance in that nice final."

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