Philippe Gilbert won the second Belgian road race title of his career in Lacs de l'Eau d'Heure on Sunday. The BMC puncheur says this victory is complete different from his first national title won in 2011.
"It's completely different to my first championship," Gilbert said in a team press release. "When I won in 2011 I was in the best period of my career. I wasn't expecting to win then because the course didn't suit me too much."
In 2011, Gilbert was at the top of his game winning La Fleche Wallonne, Amstel Gold Race, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Clasica San Sebastian, a stage at the Tour de France, and he went on to win the world title in 2012. He won the national championship solo, two seconds ahead of Gianni Meersman and Jelle Wallays.
On Sunday, he beat Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) in a sprint, after the two got away in a late break, with Gilbert's BMC teammate Greg Van Avermaet taking third.
This year, Gilbert's season has been riddled with problems. He battled a respiratory infection that saw him abandon Paris-Nice and miss Milan-San Remo.
In April, he broke his finger in an altercation with two drivers who were reportedly acting aggressively toward him and training partner Loïc Vliegen. He also reportedly used an illegal spray in the altercation, for which he could face a sanction if found guilty. The injury forced Gilbert to alter his schedule and skip some races, including Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
Gilbert recently raced with BMC at the Tour of Luxembourg where he took two stage wins and finished second overall. He also raced at the Tour de Suisse before Nationals.
"Here I was working really hard after my accident in April to get back to this level. I was already happy after the Tour of Luxembourg as I felt some good sensations. Then at the Tour de Suisse I wasn't sure how my level was, but then I was back feeling good in the last days. This win gives me a lot of confidence and I'm looking forward to wearing the jersey at the Tour of Poland."
Gilbert confirmed that this season will be his last with BMC and that he has had contact with other teams with a view to a deal for 2017 and beyond.