By Brecht Decaluwé in Gent
While Philippe Gilbert's superb solo ride in the Omloop Het Volk captured most of the day's headlines, a few cycling fans might recognise the name of his team-mate Arnaud Gerard, who finally came of age during the Belgian semi-classic today. Since becoming junior world road race champion in 2002, the Frenchman hasn't gained the kind of results expected after a promising early career, but proved his worth by setting up Gilbert's final decisive move on the cobbles of 'Lange Munte'.
"Gilbert was the strongest man today. My job was to stay in front as long as I could, and on those last stretches on the cobbles I pulled at 100 percent. Philippe attacked well and off he was," Gerard told Cyclingnews after the race. A couple of minutes later the breakaway group was caught by the favourites, including Leif Hoste, who was spotted directing strong words at the youngster. But according to Gerard, "That was nothing. He only told me to stay on the wheels and stop disturbing the co-operation."
At the finish team manager Marc Madiot gave his rider a big hug and whispered something in his ear. "He told me that I rode the best race of my life," said the 23 year-old with delight. "For some [riders] it goes quickly, for some it takes a little longer and I am one of those. Today I showed that I made it eventually," Gerard laughed. "Now I want to capture a win myself. Which race? That doesn't matter, as long as I can win something."