It's no secret that the best rider of 2011, Philippe Gilbert (BMC), isn't enjoying good form so far in 2012. This time last year Gilbert had three wins in the bag and proved to be one of the candidates in the Tour of Flanders. After finishing third in 2009 and 2010 he finished ninth in 2011.
After racking up all the wins in the Ardennes, Gilbert stated this winter that the Ronde was high on his wish-list. With his poor results in March that hope slowly vanished and eventually his 75th place in 2012 didn't surprise anybody. His teammate Alessandro Ballan (BMC) nearly made up for Gilbert his absence by battling for the win until the finish line, despite falling just short and finishing third.
"I was better than last weekend," Gilbert evaluated his race at the team bus. "The team was super good. In the finale we were still with seven men in the peloton at 60 kilometres from the finish which was very good. Ballan was good and also confident. After the Koppenberg I talked with Ballan and he told me that he was confident that he could mix in for the win today," Gilbert told Sporza.
The performance from Gilbert was far from a disaster, like the way he rode at the E3-Prijs Harelbeke when he dropped out of the peloton after the first acceleration at the Taaienberg. "Today I tried to ride near the front," Gilbert said. He easily made the first cut and right after the often crucial marker of 200 km Gilbert moved into the spotlight. When tackling the long climbing combination Kruisberg/Hotond, Gilbert punched away. He was quickly joined by his training partner Björn Leukemans who shared a pull in the attack. Nine more riders were able to hook on their wagon and on top of the Kruisberg they had a small gap on the large group of favorites. In part two of the climb, the Hotond, the duo ran out of gas and Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma - Quick Step) brought the peloton back to the front. Little later Gilbert his story was over when he didn't survive the selection made by Chavanel when taking on the Oude Kwaremont a second time that day. "Suddenly I ran out of power and had to let go of the rest."
From there Gilbert ended up finishing in a third group at nearly five minutes from winner Tom Boonen. Gilbert skips the Scheldeprijs and Paris-Roubaix to get ready for the Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He still has two weeks to get his form back at a decent level to defend his string of Ardennes victories this season. "I hope so. It's a completely different race so why not. It's still two more weeks and I can train a lot from now on. Let's hope," Gilbert said.