Philippe Gilbert has worked out two tactics for the world championship. He reckons he can win in two different ways, either with an attack on the last lap or in the sprint if the race ends in a bunch finish.
The Belgian appeared very serene in front of the media at his seaside hotel in Torquay. He hid neither his ambitions nor the plan he has has in mind in order to become world champion on Sunday.
"I’ve based my season on this race,” Gilbert admitted. “That involved some risk but my timing is right, my preparation has been perfect, I have finished the Vuelta in very good shape and I have a great team around me.” He served notice of his fine form by winning two stages at the Vuelta a España.
“I wanted to come to Australia early but we missed a plane and had to spend a night in Qatar,” Gilbert explained. “It cut the trip in two and it was good for recovery. During the first week here, I had some highs and lows because of the jet lag but my sleep has been stable for the past two days. I’ve adapted to the time zone.”
In the first week of January, he invited his friend Simon Gerrans for a coffee in Monaco because he wanted a detailed description of the course. In April, he rode a simulation of it on rollers. “When I discovered it for real, it was exactly what I expected,” he said. “We’ll ride the climbs very fast in the last two laps. A perfect course for me would have been the same with the finish at the top of the hill. Now there are two options. If the race is hard and if many riders are at the limit, the right tactic will be to attack on the last climb. If not, I could also win the sprint.”
Gilbert insisted that his strength is his team. It is noticeable that the Belgians are very united these days. “Six of us are teammates all year at Omega Pharma-Lotto,” he noted. “The other factor is that we are most of us from the same generation. Only Mario Aerts knows how to put his hand up in the air to call on other riders to work. We’ve all always heard it via the radios, so on Sunday it will be a new experience. That will force us to be close to each other, especially in the first part from Melbourne to Geelong. That might be crucial depending on the wind, if there is any and where it blows from. To protect the leader will be very important before we reach the circuit in Geelong.
“I’m one of the favourites, but I’m not the only one in great shape," Gilbert added. "The most dangerous in my mind is Oscar Freire who is a specialist and always a threat in such a race. A handful of about ten riders can also win, among them Pozzato, Kolobnev, Hushovd, Cancellara, Sagan and a very good Australian team with Goss, Davis, Evans and Gerrans. The cleverest and freshest rider will win. It’s a race for someone who has a steady nerve. I like the tension.”