Philippe Gilbert belives he's close to his best, after a good winter, where he detached himself from the world of cycling.
"A cyclist needs a simple life with training and resting," he told RTBF from his home in Monaco. "That's what I did this winter.
"I tried to cut myself away from the world of cycling mentally and didn't do any press-related things. It was the first time in my career I managed to do that. I focused on the essentials: training and nourishment. I am not far from the level I had in my best winters,"
BMC Racing Team confirmed that Gilbert will start in the Tours of Qatar and Oman and will return to Europe for two UCI 1.1 races in France (Sud Ardèche and the Drome Classic) before riding both Strade Bianche and Roma Maxima. However, he remained quiet on the rest of his race programme. "I am not at liberty to discuss if I'll do Tirreno Adriatico or Paris-Nice and the rest of the programme, because the team will announce it.
"I respect their wishes. Of course the Ardennes classics are on my programme, and I start there with big ambitions. I can also say that Milan-San Remo will be a big goal this year. I have been in the final several times and was on the podium twice before [third in 2008 and 2011] and it's not on my palmarès yet. It's not a secret that I dream about this race."
With the addition of the Pompeiana climb to the Milan-San Remo course sprinters like André Greipel and former winner Mark Cavendish have said they won't ride La Primavera. "The race has evolved into a very difficult and demanding race. It will be the punchers and the climbers who'll arrive at San Remo, and not the sprinters. I talked to [Chris] Froome and he will take the start at Milan-San Remo too. I don't ask myself the question if it's a shame that it evolved or add to the discussion whether you should keep the parcours and the history. I am selfish and I say that the race suits me well."
In 2011 Gilbert won the Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Flèche Brabanconne, GP Québec, Clasíca San Sebastian, the Belgian championships and the Tour of Belgium among others. He signed a contract with BMC Racing Team and extended this deal to 2016 in July of 2013 but hasn't repeated or approached the results of 2011 with Lotto.
"I I can't deny that not having a few riders with me in the final of a race, like for example after La Redoute is Liège is not favorable for me. In 2014 I will have riders by my side like Peter Velits. he's very experienced and capable of helping me. The same goes for Ben Hermans. I don't know him despite the fact he's Belgian, but I think he is also one of those riders that can help me in a Classic. The [BMC] team has under-evolved according to its potential so it's time to do that now."