French Canadian Martin Gilbert won the biggest race of his career in the seventh and final stage of the Tour of Missouri. The win came at the expense of seven ProTour teams in what Gilbert describes as preparation for his team Planet Energy’s debut at the two ProTour races set to take place in his home province of Quebec, Canada next September.
“I think this year we had two good chances to race with the ProTour teams,” Gilbert said. “The first was at Philadelphia and we had a sixth place. Our second big chance was here with a lot of top five positions and now a stage win. I think it was a good experience for us, now we know what it is to race with ProTour guys and we have a year to grow and get bigger as a team, try to work better together and improve all of our qualities. We know what it is now and that we have to work harder for next year.”
The International Cycling Union (UCI) secured two Canadian ProTour races for five years, set to start in 2010 on September 10 in Quebec City and September 12 in Montreal. All ProTour teams are obliged to send a seven-rider team to the races and there will be the addition four wild card spots available, according to race promoter Serge Arsenault.
The wild card teams will include the Canadian-based Planet Energy team, one Canadian national team, one US national team and one Continental or Professional Continental team based in the USA, to be decided at a later date.
“A team like this is governed by Steve Bauer, who has a lot of experience racing in all the big races, so I think it is good for us because we can learn a lot from his input,” Gilbert said regarding his squad’s manager Bauer, a highly decorated Canadian cyclist. “In the future the team will grow as fast as we can make it grow by competing well and showing ourselves and trying to do big wins. Yes, I think we have all the support from our sponsors who are excited and love bicycles and big races. I think we have all the opportunity to grow as a team.”
The team nearly missed out on an invitation to compete at the Tour of Missouri, as it was the final team invited by race organiser Medalist Sports. Gilbert is grateful to have had the opportunity to show his strengths as sprinter and to prove that Planet Energy as a whole has a place amongst the biggest races in North America.
“I think the team got into this tour by the back door,” Gilbert said. “We were not supposed to be here in the beginning so we wanted to take it seriously. For us, the form is always good at the end of the summer. Living in Canada there is a lot of snow and that’s not good for training in the winter so we can carry our form into the middle of the year all the way to the end.
“We were really happy to be invited into this race and we wanted to take our chances and show that we can be here with the big guys and the big teams,” he added.