By Jean-François Quénet in Rochechouart
Philippe Gilbert returned to Belgium with mixed feelings on Thursday after pulling out of the Tour du Limousin, a race that had started perfectly for him. Gilbert claimed his first win of the year in La Souterraine on stage one, but on the same day, his directeur sportif Marc Madiot warned that Gilbert was still suffering from a stomach bug. The infection, which prevented him from finishing the Tour de France, was identified, but in order to treat it, "I'd have to take very strong antibiotics for one week at least," Gilbert explained. "I don't want that. I want to finish the season well because the races at the end of the year suit me really well."
With the rest of the season in mind, Gilbert headed home to try to cure himself in order to start his preparation for the World Championships. He has never missed a Worlds since he was a junior, and while he admits, "I know I don't have many chances to win it myself," he remembers the joy of helping Tom Boonen to capture the rainbow jersey in Madrid in 2005.
For a 25 year-old Walloon, his record is one of exceptional consistency on the Belgian national team. Gilbert will get some more medical advice from Française des Jeux team doctor Gérard Guillaume before he decides whether or not he'll start the Tour of Spain next week, something he wanted to do with the Worlds in mind. Should he gives up his intention to go to Spain, he would ride the ProTour event, the GP Plouay, on September 2nd instead.