Philippe Gilbert doesn't expect to retain his national champion's status, and thinks it will go to Tom Boonen when the race finishes in Geel on Sunday. “Tom is riding in his own backyard. He also has a strong and experienced team with him,” he told Het Nieuwsblad.
Gilbert doesn't expect the race to finish in a mass sprint, though, and predicts there may be 25 riders together at the finish. “There aren't that many riders in this country who are capable of going all out for 250km,” he said.
“There is Boonen, but I also think my former teammate Jurgen Roelandts knows the value of the tricolor. On this kind of course even Kenny Dehaes may win. He is very fast. There are a number of candidates.”
Gilbert will have three BMC teammates with him in Geel, but is happy with the size of his team. “That's not bad. In the past, at FDJ, I had to do with even less.”
He has had less than a sterling year in 2012, and is still looking for his first win of the season. Of his many wins in 2011, the national title meant something special to him. “I like the fact that after three silver medals, I finally won the jersey. I glowed with pride.”