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Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) happy on the Brabantse Pijl podium
Belgian not worried about being the big favourite
Philippe Gilbert (Omega-Pharma Lotto) said he is ready for any outcome in the finale of Sunday's Amstel Gold Race and shrugged off the idea that his rivals could stop him winning one of the three Ardennes Classics just as Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) was closely marked and then outmaneuvered in the cobbled classics.
Gilbert won the Amstel Gold Race last year, finished sixth in Fleche-Wallonne and was third in Liege-Bastogne-Liege. He again opted to miss Paris-Roubaix this spring to focus on the Ardennes classics, which cover many of his training roads in the French speaking Wallonne region of Belgium.
He told Cyclingnews that he felt he has hit peak form just in time for the Ardennes week.
"I was very good on Wednesday at Flèche Brabançonne and I don’t think my form will not change in just three days. So it’s okay," he said fluently switching from French to Flemish and then English during the Omega Pharma-Lotto pre-race press conference.
"I have no problem with the tactics because I can go with a few guys in a breakaway, I'm fast and I'll be strong on the last climb. And If I come with about 40 guys like last year, I have also a chance. I have more options."
Gilbert believes his ability to handle the climbs in the Ardennes classics will stop his rivals from working him over.
"Maybe they want to (do that) but the circuit (course) is harder than in Flanders or Roubaix. In Roubaix and Flanders you can always follow the big favourites and then make him lose when you don’t help him.
Here when the favourite goes flat out on the climb, at the top there are maybe one or two guys with him and then it's a big difference."
"I think the Schlecks, Gesink, all the riders from Katusha and maybe I forgot some but there are a lot of favourites for Sunday."
Astana in 2012?
Gilbert denied reports in the Belgian press that the team's leading sponsors Omega Pharma and Lotto may be heading for a bitter divorce.
Although he smiled when asked about his own future and possible move to Astana in 2012, Gilbert played down reports the reports.
"The press talk always when they don't know the problem. They said a lot of not right ideas and it's not very good for the sponsors," he said.
"I'll wait till until we have an official decision from the team and then we can talk about it. Now it's difficult to day something."
"I saw a lot of paper (reports) about me and Astana. But the thing is that it's only a simulation from the press. For now I'm concentrated on races and then I'll have a break and I will first talk to my team and we can maybe take a decision to talk to the press to stop this problem."