Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) won the first stage of the Tour of Belgium, taking the sprint from a five-man break. It was his first race back after a period of rest.
His last racing day, after a full early season, was the fifth stage of the Tour de Romandie earlier this month. “I was good in training, but didn't have any idea of my condition after my short rest ,” he told the Belga news agency.
Gilbert did not know whether he would try to defend his leader's jersey. There are “two difficult days” before Saturday's time trial, followed by a climbing stage on Sunday. “The Tour of Belgium is still long and far from over. “
Gilbert is using the Tour of Belgium as, “a stepping stone to a higher level in mid-June in the Tour of Switzerland. This is my next big goal,” he told the Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws.
Gilbert is skipping the Tour de France, which passes through Belgium this year, in favour of peaking around the second half of the year. “That has never been in my programme. However much advertising interest there may be in my presence in riding in my own land, it doesn't outweigh the ambitions I have for the second part of the season.”
The 27-year-old was successful in October 2010, winning the Coppa Sabatini, Paris-Tours, Giro del Piemonte and the Giro di Lombardia, all within 10 days. He not only wants to repeat those, but is looking to do even better.
“I want to win all the Classics: Hamburg, San Sebastian, Paris-Tours, Lombardy.... And 'le grand moment' is reserved for October 3 in Geelong in Australia, where I want to become World Champion.”