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Gilbert plays mind games with his world championship rivals

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma Lotto) on the podium

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma Lotto) on the podium (Image credit:

Philippe Gilbert maybe the world's number one ranked rider after dominating the classics and totaling 17 victories but he insisted he is not one of the favourites for the upcoming world championships in Copenhagen.

Following the announcement of the Belgian team for the road race, Gilbert admitted that the team would miss top sprinter Tom Boonen, who was forced to miss the world championships as he recovers from a fractured wrist.

"They point at us as favourites, but we don't have a sprinter," Gilbert told DHnet, reflecting on the flatness of the course which could see a bunch sprint finish. "We miss the ultimate weapon - we'll have to do it without a rival for the pure sprinters: Greipel, Cavendish, Farrar and this sort of super fast men."

However the 29-year-old Omega Pharma-Lotto rider, who is back in his native Belgium after winning the GP de Quebec at the week-end, also saw a positive aspect to losing Boonen.

"It's not too bad, because then they can't ask us to control the race - it will be up to the Germans, Brits, Americans and others," he said when asked for comment by Het Nieuwsblad.

Gilbert is convinced that the Belgian squad will be strong for the 266km road race.

"Between Nuyens, Vansummeren and myself, we've won the bulk of the great one-day races this season," the winner of all three 2011 Ardennes Classics said. He hopes that the race distance, possible windy conditions, hard racing and the 300 metre uphill finishing straight will be to his advantage.

"If the other nations make the race hard, then perhaps I stand a chance," Gilbert conceded. This time around, it looks like Belgium may want to collaborate if its traditional rival team Italy launches attacks.

Gilbert's final preparation race this week will be the GP de Wallonie on Wednesday with its steep finish to the citadel of Namur. Back in his native Belgium, his hand injury sustained in a crash at the GP de Montreal proved not to be a concern. Even during the race, as his teammates brought him back to the front, Gilbert reportedly told them: "I am tougher than the tarmac."