Classics specialist Philippe Gilbert has released his racing programme for the first part of the 2011 season, leading up to Liège-Bastogne-Liège on April 24. Contrary to previous years, he will not start his season at the Tour of Qatar, as his Omega Pharma-Lotto team applied too late for an invitation and was therefore refused. The team will not take part in the Tour of Oman, either. Instead, Gilbert may race the Mallorca Challenge from Februay 6-10, but this is not official yet.
At present, eight races have been selected until the end of April before the Omega Pharma-Lotto rider decides whether or not to ride the Tour de France.
These eight events also include the Italian one-day race Monte Paschi Strade Bianche, which Gilbert has never raced. The Italian event, won in 2010 by Maxim Iglinskiy, is special in that it is partly held on dirt roads and also includes many steep climbs. After the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on February 2, which Gilbert already won twice, the Strade Bianche on March 3 and Tirreno-Adriatico from March 9-13 will be the perfect build-up for Milano-San Remo on March 19 - another one of Gibert's goals.
But the five-time Classics winner has already announced that the one race he was really targeting next year will be the Ronde van Vlaanderen, taking place on April 4. "Winning six Classics is a dream but I'll take them one-by-one. Next year I'm aiming at the Tour of Flanders," he announced in an interview with Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws.
But Gilbert is of course also scheduled to race the three Ardennes Classics, Amstel Gold Race on April 17, which he won in 2010, Flèche Wallonne on April 20 and finally Liège-Bastogne-Liège on April 24.