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World Champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC) signs autographs for his hometown fans
Belgian keen for better winter preparation than last year
Gilbert has already won all of the Ardennes classics, completing the hat-trick of Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2011. Although he has yet to win the Tour of Flanders, however, he believes that focusing on the De Ronde constitutes more of a risk than taking aim at the latter part of April.
“That’s where you need to be in great form, because at Amstel, Flèche and Liège, it’s decided by who has the legs, much more than at Milan-San Remo or even the Tour of Flanders,” Gilbert told La Dernière Heure. “The Ronde motivates me a lot, but you can be at the front for 200 kilometres and then lose everything by making a positioning error on a climb. Punctures can also play a bigger role there than at the Ardennes.”
Gilbert also said that he will alter his preparation this winter in a bid to avoid making the same sluggish start to 2013 that he made to the season just past.
After his high-profile switch to BMC last winter, Gilbert endured a sub-par classics campaign before ending his season on a high, with two stage wins at the Vuelta a España and victory at the Worlds in Valkenburg.
“We’re going to work differently to last year,” Gilbert said. “We’ve going to work better on everybody’s programme so that we don’t make the same mistakes as last year. We’re here to progress and you progress by not repeating the same mistakes. Winter training is the key to the season, and if you don’t get it right, it takes months to make up the difference.”
However, Gilbert said that a hampered winter of training was not the only reason for his off-key opening to 2012, where a third-place finish at Flèche Wallonne was just about the only bright note in a trying period.
“There were other reasons, like adapting to material due to changing teams, without forgetting my dental problems,” he said. “For a high-level sportsman, that all costs you dearly. But I’m sure that this period of my career, which was not the easiest, will serve to make me even stronger in the future.”
Gilbert brought the curtain down on his season at the Tour of Lombardy on the last weekend of September, and he is set to begin training for 2013 on Wednesday. “I’m already keen to get back again,” he said. “During the rest period, I’ve still ridden a bit, doing some tests with the new bike, but I won’t call that training. The real thing begins on Wednesday.”