Philippe Gilbert (Belgium) was probably the strongest rider at Geelong’s world championship and certainly the most aggressive. But he didn’t get his due reward as the headwind put an end to his third and last attack with 2.5km to go.
“I have nothing to regret,” the Belgian said at the finish line. “I’ve worked for a couple of months to win this race and I was physically very strong and fresh as well. I’ve given my best but unfortunately, the wind was blowing against my interests at the end.”
The Belgian team had imagined that the wind might do damage in the initial section from Melbourne to Geelong. “But until we arrived on the circuit, there was no wind at all,” Gilbert explained. “Then it started blowing but I had to try and break away anyway. After my first attack, when a group came across to ours, I saw from their faces that Thor Hushovd and Oscar Freire were very fresh, that’s why I decided to attack again. I didn’t feel myself fast enough to beat a sprinter like Hushovd. I put it in the big ring, it allowed me to re-start strongly at the top of the hill but it was headwind after that. It wasn’t easy to resist on the big boulevards in such conditions.”
“It’s a pity”, he continued, “but that’s the way it goes. It’s cycling I guess. This is a sport where the strongest is never sure to win. It’s not a sport with just two men against each other. There are many riders and many factors.”
Gilbert would have appreciated a bit of help from Filippo Pozzato (Italy) when they were together at the front. “I didn’t understand the Italians’ tactics,” he said. “Pozzato didn’t do a thing.”
On his return to Europe, Gilbert will figure out whether or not he can aim at a third consecutive victory at Paris-Tours next week. “It all depends on how I recover from the jet lag,” said the Omega Pharma-Lotto rider. “Paris-Tours might be too close but I should be ok for the Tour of Lombardy.” He won both classics last year and has the intention to profit from the brilliant condition he built for the world championship.