Philippe Gilbert (BMC) is hoping to complete a remarkable return to form on Sunday by winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday. The Belgian champion was a shadow of his former self at the cobbled classics, but after ten days away from racing following the Tour of Flanders, he returned to action in a significantly more competitive state for the Ardennes classics.
6th at Amstel Gold Race and 3rd at Flèche Wallonne this week, Gilbert is still some way off the all-conquering figuring who won both races and La Doyenne last year, but he believes he will be in the mix on Sunday afternoon, especially if weather conditions remain as changeable as they have been during the week.
“I would have preferred if it was even colder and wetter again, because I perform better in difficult conditions,” Gilbert said, according to dhnet.be. “I thought that the weather would play more of a role at Flèche on Wednesday, because it was cold at Amstel.”
Flèche Wallonne winner Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) confessed to struggling to cope with the colder temperatures at Amstel Gold Race, and Gilbert is hopeful that the weather might tip the balance towards him this weekend.
“It won’t be decisive, even if it might mean the race is harder,” he said. “But if it was going to be 25 degrees, then that would certainly have been an advantage to the Spanish and the Italians.”
Still without a win this season, Gilbert acknowledged that he is still not at his very best, but he insisted that he never doubted himself through the troubled early months of his campaign.
“In spite of all the setbacks that I had, I never doubted or lay down my arms,” he said. “It was important for me to be good this week, and I’ve reached that. I’m not at my best level, but I’m getting to a very competitive level just in time, and I hope to be a little better after Flèche.”
Gilbert triumphed with almost disarming facility this time last year, but he is aware that on this occasion, he might have to rely on his nous as much as on his legs.
“Last year, I was really at the top and almost certain of winning, or at least being there for the win,” he said. “Now I’m good, but not as strong. I’m missing some percentage points that could make the difference. I’m in sufficient form to compete for the win, but if I ride a race without committing any errors and if I don’t have any problems.”