By Gregor Brown
Belgium's Philippe Gilbert of Team Française des Jeux started and ended his 2008 Tour de France with a bang despite two crashes that made the going difficult.
"The form was better in the last day. I followed the rhythm of the bunch, and then I attacked in the last five kilometres," said Gilbert, winner of Omloop Het Volk, to Cyclingnews after the final day of racing in Paris, July 27. He tried his luck with a move on the Champs Élysées, but was unable to foil the sprinters and the stage win of Gert Steegmans.
"I tried just before the corner. I gave it all but the bunch was very strong today. I hoped that [Sylvain] Chavanel would have a good reaction. With him it could have been possible - two good riders. However, I stayed in the wheel and it was too late."
22 days earlier, the Belgian finished runner-up to Team Caisse d'Epargne's Alejandro Valverde in stage one. He held the maillot vert for Spaniard Valverde, who wore the maillot jaune during stage two, but the green points top brought him bad luck when he crashed with over a kilometre to race. He continued racing to form part of a large successful escape group in stage 16. Two days later, he was back on the ground again when he crashed with Damiano Cunego and Alexandre Botcharov.
"I had two crashes and some bruising. It caused a lot of problems and I was not so good," he said. However, he was happy to finish his third Tour de France, won by Spaniard Carlos Sastre.
"A worthy winner? Yes. He attacked and took the jersey on Alpe d'Huez, and it makes for a nice winner. Evans must be really deceived. He had very high ambitions and to come here and take second place."