Amstel Gold Race winner Philippe Gilbert was Belgium's best finisher in Wednesday's Flèche Wallonne, coming in sixth atop the famous Mur de Huy. The leg breaking, lung bursting steep finish does not really suit Gilbert's style of racing but Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège does and it is the last big goal of the spring for the Omega Pharma-Lotto rider.
"It's a good result to be finishing in the top ten," Gilbert told Belgian journalists at the finish in Huy. "Compared to the real climbers, I come up a little short in the finale. But I'm satisfied mith my performance."
Despite still feeling last Sunday's race-winning effort in his legs, the Belgian raced hard and was set-up perfectly by his Omega Pharma-Lotto teammates ready for the final, third ascent of the Mur de Huy. "The first 100 kilometres were tough, but after that I felt better. At the second passage of the Mur de Huy I got dropped. It was difficult for about 10 kilometres, but then I was able to start the finishing ascent in a good position, also thanks to my teammates," he said.
Gilbert knew which wheel he had to follow on the closing climb, and extended his effort not only in view of a victory but to also secure some precious points in the UCI rankings as he tries to secure the number one ranking after Liège-Bastogne-Liège. "Evans' wheel was clearly the best one. His acceleration was "smooth", if you can say that, but I still had to let him go. On the Mur I gave it everything I had, but the last 200 metres really are unbelievably hard. I had some extra motivation left to ride for the points in the UCI ranking."
However, the Belgian's hopes of scoring the number one in the ranking were complicated by Joaquin Rodruiguez (Katusha). He finished second and theoretically leads the classification before Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the culmination of the Ardennes Classics.
Gilbert finished fourth at Liège-Bastogne-Liège last year and will again be rated as one of the favourites especially after his Amstel victory last week. The Omega Pharma-Lotto rider says a victory in the "Doyenne", his home race, would be a dream come true but he knows he faces some tough competition.
"A win this Sunday is more than an objective for me, it's a real dream," he said. "On Sunday, I may well be one of the riders that you have to keep an eye on. but I'm not the only one. The Schleck brothers, Evans, Contador and Valverde will be there, too."