One of the forefront protagonists at the Olympic road race on Saturday, Philippe Gilbert, has been continuing to build up good form after what has been a rather disappointing season so far for the BMC rider. The Belgian, who attacked twice in the 250km race and was riding solo in front before the finale, executed his national team's strategy to perfection: a powerful breakaway and Tom Boonen in the bunch in case of a mass sprint.
Out of this lead group, Gilbert was able to jump away twice, once on the seventh ascent of Box Hill, then finally on the penultimate climb, where he established a real gap. The Classics specialist increased his advantage to nearly one minute as the race entered its final phase.
"I think I did everything to make the race hard. I had great legs. We did everything we could within our range of possibilities," Gilbert told Het Nieuwsblad.
With Fabian Cancellara, Luis Leon Sanchez and Alejandro Valverde having bridged up to the chasing break, the Spaniards brought back the Belgian attacker, while the peloton had lost its drive and remained at around one minute for the last 20 kilometres.
"When it became clear that we would stay away with a thirtyful of riders, I directed my focus on Cancellara. I was lucky that I was able to avoid Fabian when he crashed," continued Gilbert, who was riding just behind the Swiss when he fell into the barriers of a corner, injuring his right shoulder.
Adding to the polemic of the British team losing out on a mass sprint as Alexandre Vinokourov (Kazakhstan) claimed the desired Gold medal, Gilbert said that: "The British steered behind the TV motorbike. It was sad - several riders reacted on this."
The BMC rider now focuses on the World Championships in Valkenburg, with several races scheduled to fine-tune his perparation. First, the Belgian time trial champion will ride the Olympic race against the clock on Wednesday this week, then the Belgian time trial championships on August 15. That same evening, he will take a plane to Spain to start in the Vuelta, which starts in Pamplona on August 18. "I think that the Vuelta is the best preparation for the Worlds in Valkenburg," Gilbert added.
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