After finishing 5th in his final outing in the rainbow jersey at the Grand Prix d’Isbergues on Sunday, Philippe Gilbert (BMC) has declared himself ready for the defence of his world title in Florence next weekend.
Unlike last year, Gilbert missed the team time trial at the world championships, preferring instead to put the finishing touches to his preparations at Isbergues and Friday’s Grand Prix Impanis-Van Petegem, where he finished 20th.
“I opted for some racing before the Worlds,” Gilbert told La Dernière Heure. “You train every day in any case, but nothing can ever replace racing. I was glad to do the Grand Prix d’Isbergues because it was raced at high speed and I was able to do a lot of intervals.”
Gilbert worked for his teammate Thor Hushovd in the finale of Sunday’s race, but in spite of his lead-out, the Norwegian could only manage 4th behind winner Arnaud Démare (FDJ).
“In the end, the sprinters had the last word,” Gilbert said. “But as far as I’m concerned, I had an excellent day of training and I confirmed that I feel very good ahead of the world championships in Florence in next Sunday.”
Gilbert has claimed just one victory this season and while he has dismissed “the curse rainbow jersey,” he acknowledged last week that the burden of wearing it had been weightier than anticipated. After his final race in the famous jersey, Gilbert said that he was proud of his innings.
“I spoke about it with Thor [Hushovd] and he admitted to me that he was very emotional during his final races with the jersey,” Gilbert said. “As for me, above all, I’m proud to have worn this jersey. I’m ready mentally to lose it but I’m going to Florence with ambition. I’ve worked enormously since July towards that goal.
“Becoming world champion was a dream and I realised it. Few people have a chance to do that, so I’m happy. But for sure, I’ll be even happier if I can do it again.”
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