Philippe Gilbert may be leaving the BMC Racing Team at the end of the year and is currently working for teammate and Vuelta a Espana race leader Darwin Atapuma but the Belgian national champion is aiming for one last major win before he ends his time with the US-registered team and joins Etixx-QuickStep.
Gilbert has already a solid history of victories and top standings in the Vuelta a Espana, starting with a spectacular uphill win in Malaga in 2010 that also netted him the race lead, a second win the same year, another in 2012 in Barcelona in a battle against Joaquim Rodriguez in the twisting roads of the Montjuïc Park, and a fourth in 2013.
Gilbert will race until as Il Lombardia -where he has a very distinguished track record, with two wins in 2009 and 2010, and he wants to end his time at BMC on a high.
The 34-year-old former world champion and multiple Classics winner has already been active at the Vuelta a Espana, jumping out of the pack late on stage two to pick up some bonus seconds. BMC are now leading the Vuelta with Atapuma, though, and Gilbert points out that this obviously changes the situation for him, too.
"The form is good, I don't know, I'm taking it on the day by day, but now we have the jersey and always different when you have a leader in the team, so we will see," Gilbert told Cyclingnews at the start of stage four.
"I want go all the way through to Lombardy, it was not easy with Rio and [the Tour of] Norway and now here, with a lot of travels and different climates, but now I'm here and it's okay."
After a season with high points such as the Belgian national title but also some injuries that wrecked his Ardennes Classics season, Gilbert is still hungry for late season success.
"To leave from BMC with a big win is something that motivates me," he said.
As for next year, where he will be racing with Etixx-Quick Step, Gilbert pointed out that "it's important for me to come back to a Belgian team," agreeing that in a way, it represents a return to his racing roots, "and I'm happy for this."
Gilbert's five seasons with BMC have not always one smoothly, but both he and the team are working for a happy uncoupling.
"Phil for sure is aiming for a stage win, there are a good few days for him now and he's on the watch for breakaways," BMC directeur sportif Max Sciandri told Cyclingnews.
"He only cracked at two kilometres to go on the stage four summit finish so he's testing himself. Already on stage two to Baiona, he was sniffing around a little bit at the end, too."
Sciandri praised Gilbert drive and hunger to win.
"He's up for Lombardia, and that's the end for us, it's a shame because he's a winner, when he goes to a bike race he wants to win. Some people have that drive less than others and Phil's got the charisma, he's one of the guys who can pull the team together, specially in the Classics."
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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