Philippe Gilbert’s travails continued on Friday as the Belgian champion was forced to abandon E3 Harelbeke after 143km. The BMC rider withdrew after being distanced on the climb of La Houppe, shortly after the midpoint of the race.
“Everything was going well up until then,” Gilbert told dhnet.be. “All of a sudden I didn’t have any power. I saw that the race was kicking off and I would have loved to have been in front, but I wasn’t able. I was empty, without energy, as though I had the knock, but it wasn’t that.”
After a remarkable 2011 season that saw him rack up 19 victories, Gilbert has endured a wretched opening to the current campaign, in which he and his new BMC team are still without a win. He abandoned Tirreno-Adriatico citing fever, and was also suffering from dental problems in the run-up to Milan-San Remo.
“It’s a bit hard in terms of morale, especially as I don’t have any explanation,” he said.
BMC team doctor Giovanni Ruffini believes that Gilbert’s tooth infection may well lie behind his current malaise, and on the eve of E3 Harelbeke, Gilbert admitted that his diet was still limited after his last dental treatment in Milan last week.
“With this tooth infection, Philippe has had to go into his reserves,” Ruffini said. “He hasn’t been able to eat properly. He’s lost weight, he lost another kilo in the last few days. We’re going to look to work on that in the next few days. I think he can only improve.”
Gilbert is set to race Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday, before returning to his home in Monaco immediately after the finish.