Philippe Gilbert will lead Belgium in the World Championships later this month in Mendrisio, Switzerland. Belgian national coach Carlo Bomans today named eight of the nine riders for the men's road race, with the final selection to be named on Wednesday.
Also on the team is former World Champion Tom Boonen, along with Francis De Greef, Kevin De Weert, Maxime Monfort, Nick Nuyens, Greg Van Avermaet, and Maarten Wynants.
Stijn Devolder is one of the candidates for the final place on the team, along with Bert De Waele, Serge Pauwels, Johan Vansummeren and Jurgen Van den Broeck.
Philippe Gilbert has shown solid form thus far in the Vuelta, placing 14th and 21st in the time trials and netting a fine second on stage eleven. However despite good sensations, he isn't obsessed about chasing a stage win in the race.
"I will go all the way to Madrid, but I don't need to go too deep," the friendly Belgian told Cyclingnews at this morning's stage start in Jaén. "It's now 13 days to the worlds and that's my focus.
"I crashed near Liège but otherwise the race has been going well. I had a chance to win a stage a few days ago but Farrar was too strong for me. But I have a second place, I have good condition, and am feeling that my form is holding as the worlds gets closer."
The course in Mendrisio could well suit the Walloon, who is a puncheur – a strong rider who is good on medium climbs and also fast in a sprint. He's twice won Het Volk, and this year was fourth in both the Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, showing that he can cope well with hilly courses. If he calculates his form just right, that could see him as one of the strong challengers for the rainbow jersey.
"I will go there with ambition," he admitted. "Mendrisio has a nice parcours. I will do my best and we will see after the race how it worked out."
Today's fifteenth stage of the Vuelta covers the Alto de San Jeronimo twice. In theory the second category climb could be perfect for a Gilbert attack, but he said that he wasn't staking everything on victory in the Spanish Tour.
"I will just follow wheels in the days ahead, but if I have a chance, I will take it," he said. "I think today will be a sprint of 50 or 60 riders, or maybe a breakaway. But I don't think it will be as big group if one does go.
"My opinion is that a lot of teams want to control it from the start. For me that is perfect."