Belgian star may not line up for lack of hills
Even though the 2012 Tour de France will celebrate its Grand Départ in his backyard, Philippe Gilbert has said that he will not line up at the start in Liège next year. The Classics specialist told Belgian TV RTBF that he was "very disappointed with the parcours" that the organisers have drawn up, and indicated he might not race the event at all.
The 2012 Tour de France is due to start with a traditional prologue in Liège, Belgium, after which stage one will see the riders embark on a loop from Liège to Seraing in the Ardennes region famous for its Spring classics. But the route of this first stage, according to Gilbert, is more likely to favour a bunch sprint than successful breakaways.
"It's as if the Tour started in England and there would be no stage likely to end in a bunch sprint for Mark Cavendish," said Belgian sports journalist Rodrigo Beenkens. "I don't understand why they haven't thought of that."
But Gilbert could also opt not to race the Tour de France next year because of another reason: the Worlds in Valkenburg, Netherlands. The parcours is much more suited to the punchy rider and features the Cauberg climb, which Gilbert knows well for having celebrated his two victories of the Amstel Gold Race there in 2010 and 2011. With Valkenburg also being very close to his home in the Ardennes, Gilbert is certain to have massive flocks of supporters cheering him on in the Netherlands in September 2012, too.
The Omega Pharma-Lotto rider, who just achieved a historic quadruple, is nevertheless scheduled to take the start of this year's Tour in the Vendée region of Western France. The first few stages through Brittany could be to his taste as there are plenty of short climbs on the menu.
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