Gilbert named Belgian athlete of the year

Philippe Gilbert added another title to his superlative 2011 season, as he was named Belgian athlete of the year for the third consecutive year. He has received numerous other awards, including the Velo d'Or, and Cyclingnews readers voted him both Male Road Rider and all-around Rider of the Year.

The Belgian had 24 victories this season, including Fleche Wallonne, Amstel Gold Race, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the first stage of the Tour de France, Clasica San Sebastian, and the Belgian national road and time trial titles.

Gilbert finished well ahead of brothers and track athletes Kevin and Jonathan Borlee, who were second and third.

“Such an election is always special and I'm very proud of this trophy,” he said, according to the Belga news agency.

“The fact that I beat  top athletes like Kevin and Jonathan Borlee proves once again that we have many international qualities here in Belgium, “ he said. He also expressed his condolences to the victims of last week's shooting incident in Liege. “That touched me deeply.”

The award had an extra meaning as his Omega Pharma-Lotto teammate Jelle Vanendert presented it to him.“The prize was very special precisely because Jelle handed it to me.  Jelle is not only a colleague but a real friend.”

After three years with Omega Pharma-Lotto, Gilbert will ride for BMC Racing Team in 2012.

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