Philippe Gilbert has downplayed his role as favourite for the two upcoming one-day races in Quebec and Montreal, Canada, held on Friday and Sunday this weekend. The Belgian admitted that he felt tired at the end of a season in which he has won a total of 16 races, and instead pointed to Sky's Simon Gerrans as favourite for the hilly circuit race held in Quebec today.
"My form is not the same as a few months ago," the Omega Pharma-Lotto leader told L'Equipe on the eve of the event. "It's a bit normal after such a long season. Moreover, my complicated transfer to BMC cost me a lot of energy and concentration. I might pay for all of this now."
The 29-year-old remains a watched contender for the victory, but said that his main goal in Quebec was to collect enough points to win the UCI WorldTour ranking in which he is still placed second behind his former and future teammate Cadel Evans. "I came to Canada for this, even if it would be magnificent to win one of the two races," he told Belgian paper Dernière Heure. "But my priority is to take points."
After the last WorldTour event, the GP Plouay where Gilbert finished 57th, he still has to make up at least six points on the 2011 Tour de France winner, who has already ended his season. This means that he 'only' has to finish ninth in one of the two Canadian races to achieve his goal.
"To be declared number one of a sport is a prestigious prize. I'm in a position to do this and I might not get the opportunity again, also because the UCI changes the rules every year. I have to play this card to a 100 percent and I would be disappointed if I don't manage to pass Evans before the end of the season."
The Belgian knows that he will be a marked man in Canada, but still pointed at other riders who in his opinion stand more of a chance of victory. "I already noticed that the finish in Quebec suits me, but I think a rider like Simon Gerrans is more of a favourite on this sort of course. There are also Boasson Hagen and Gesink who will have much stronger teams around them than me," he said. The Australian was runner-up in the GP Plouay two weeks ago, and his teammate Edvald Boasson Hagen and Rabobank's Robert Gesink finished second and third of the inaugural GP of Quebec last year, with the Dutchman subsequently winning in Montreal two days later.
Gilbert also said that his Omega-Lotto team could not match other, more competitive squads such as Sky. "In Plouay, we weren't able to live up to our responsibility in the last five kilometres. Vandenert is not there, and that makes a big difference. I hope that the riders who have ambitions will do their part of the job. In Plouay, I had the whole peloton on my wheel but nobody took any initiative."