Taking into account his 18 victories this season, it was no surprise that Philippe Gilbert was once again honoured as the 'Flandrian of the year' on Sunday, for the third consecutive year. The poll conducted by Het Nieuwsblad clearly showed Gilbert in front of Nick Nuyens and Jelle Vandenert. While the Omega Pharma-Lotto rider admitted that his season has been "fantastic", he also evoked some difficulties he had had within the team.
"It's a great reward not only for me, but also for the whole team that worked for me. You're never alone in a race," Gilbert told Sporza. "But these three years have not been easy, even though my performances were really good. I worked very well with Marc Sergeant, some other managers and my teammates, but with some other directors and the service course things were not that easy. For me, these three years were very long."
Moving to BMC in 2012, the Belgian nevertheless looked back on a season that saw him achieve incredible success such as an unequalled quadruplé in spring when he took the Flèche Brabaçonne, Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. "It's been a fantastic year for me, and it won't be easy to equal it again in the future," he admitted.
"The most beautiful victory would have been Liège-Bastogne-Liège because it was my all-time dream to win it. Also, the first stage of the Tour was fantastic as I had announced my victory prior to it. It was also my first win with the Belgian champion's jersey, so it was very beautiful."
During the last few weeks of the 2011 season Gilbert's form however declined, and he was unable to to defend his title at the Giro di Lombardia. He had chosen not to race the Vuelta this year, and to him, this was what triggered the decline which could otherwise also be explained by his year-long top fitness itself. But Gilbert's appetite is unsatiable.
"I have now been through the experience of not riding the Vuelta before the last races in the season, and I won't do it like that again next year. In 2012, I'll concentrate on the races I haven't won yet, like Milan-Sanremo, the Tour of Flanders and the Worlds. I want to ride the Tour and the Vuelta to be in top shape for the Worlds in Valkenburg, my biggest objective of next season. This way, I will also have more chances to win in Lombardy again."