After taking a stylish victory at the Belgian championships on Sunday, Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) explained that such is his form this season that he is capable of winning even on courses not suited to his talents.
Gilbert seized the initiative on the flat Hooglede-Gits circuit by splitting the peloton with 100km to go, and then jumping clear on a cobbled section in the finale to take the first national title of his professional career. He acknowledged afterwards that the race had not taken place over his favoured sort of terrain.
“The thing is that I’ve started to win where I’m not expected to,” Gilbert told La Dernière Heure. “Like here, on this easy circuit, or, to the other extreme, on the slopes of the Mur de Huy (in the Flèche Wallonne – ed.), which are normally too steep for me.”
Gilbert has been in dominant form since the beginning of the season, reeling in twelve victories, including Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallone and Liège-Bastoge-Liège. The Belgian said that he has not yet had time to take stock of his achievements this season.
“It’s not like I look back and say to myself, ‘wow, I won all that!” Gilbert pointed out.
Instead, the 28-year-old is looking forward to the hilltop finishes of the opening week of the Tour de France and to the world championships in Copenhagen in September. While the Danish circuit is not perfectly tailored to Gilbert’s talents, he will surely have taken heart from Sunday’s triumph.
“I repeat what I said after my reconnaissance in April, the course isn’t really suited to my characteristics,” Gilbert said. “That said, that won’t stop me from being very motivated to take the rainbow jersey in Denmark. But simply put, I won’t be the only one who wants it.”
Gilbert was aggressive in the finale of the 2010 Worlds in Geelong on a circuit that conventional wisdom had initially written off as a sprinters’ benefit. He hinted that he might play his cards a little differently on the flat Copenhagen course.
“It’s not as though this Worlds is being raced on a circuit like the one in Verona, for example,” he said. “I’ve learned the lesson from Geelong…”
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