Philippe Gilbert was guest of honour at the Saturday evening session of the Ghent Six, and the Belgian champion delighted the home crowds by taking part in a pursuit match against his Omega Pharma-Lotto teammate Jurgen Roelandts.
Gilbert came out on top in the pursuit, recording a time of 3:43.50 for the race, and he explained afterwards that he had enjoyed the novel event.
“Track cycling is a special discipline,” Gilbert told Sporza. “You could almost say that it’s not the same sport. There are huge differences between the track and the road but my first impression was positive.”
Gilbert spent three days in Aigle, Switzerland earlier in the week as the UCI’s Athletes’ Commission met for the first time, and he used the opportunity to train on the track at the World Cycling Centre. Cyclingnews was on hand as Gilbert went through his paces on Wednesday morning in the company of Bernhard Eisel and paracyclist Jiri Jezek, and the world number one was clearly determined not to let his end down in Ghent.
“I was particularly surprised by the pressure you feel on the bends, but I followed the advice to stick to the black line and so it wasn’t too bad,” he said on Saturday.
Gilbert was set to travel back to his home in Monaco on Sunday afternoon as he turns his attention to the 2012 season. His work on the road begins in earnest this week ahead of his first training camp with his new BMC team near Calpe, from December 5th to 16th.
“It scares me a little bit,” Gilbert joked to L’Équipe. “It’s long and there are already some rides of five or six hours planned.”