Philippe Gilbert’s (BMC) engine had failed to start so far this season but when the Ardennes week kicked off on Sunday the Belgian champion was on the mark. Last year he won all three of the one-day classics, and at the foot of the Cauberg on Sunday, Gilbert put in a concerted effort to win Amstel Gold Race but fell short.
BMC did the work early on, and Gilbert took over to lead the sprint up the Cauberg in pursuit of Oscar Freire (Katusha) and Niki Terpstra (Omega-Pharma QuickStep). Though falling short to achieve a third victory in a row in Amstel, he was pleased with the outcome.
“It was important because it pleases me to ride at a competitive level again and also because these are my home races. With Freire and Terpstra up front I had to go from far out. Everybody was watching me and we wouldn’t catch them. There was a tailwind so I thought it might work out. My legs hurt too much though and I had to sit, then it was over. I know that on this climb you have to wait because on the last meters you can make up a lot of ground and make the difference.”
Long before the final climb the BMC team lost their co-leader Cadel Evans and a little later they moved forward to control the race. Gilbert was extremely pleased with the efforts of his teammates.
“Everybody worked incredibly hard but in the finale especially Santambrogio and Van Avermaet. Greg pulled off a big number.”
With his eyes on the Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday and especially Liège-Bastogne-Liège next Sunday, it seems like Gilbert will once again play his role in the finale. “I think I’ll be OK. They always say that the top 10 from Amstel is also the top 10 for Liège. It pleases me that I’m among the top 10 today and I hope that I’ll be there again next week,” Gilbert said.
The Belgian champion expected pre-race favorite Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) to bounce back from his poor 24th place in the Amstel Gold Race.
“Rodriguez is very strong but also very light and due to the wind he couldn’t go solo. That’s probably why he didn’t attack but to me he remains the strong man of the peloton, especially for Wednesday and Sunday.”