Last weekend, Philippe Gilbert won Paris-Roubaix after an impressive display of strength both from him and his Deceuninck-Quick Step team. Ahead of Amstel Gold Race, the Belgian has said that there could be more of the same to come on Sunday.
During the closing stages of the ‘Hell of the north’, Gilbert had teammate Yves Lampaert for company in the lead group, while Zdenek Štybar and Florian Senechal disrupted the chase.
Gilbert heads into Amstel, which he has won four times, alongside Julian Alaphilippe, arguably the stand-out rider of the
"It’s a nice race. It suits me," said Gilbert at his team’s pre-race press conference in Lanaken. “I’m still fresh enough and still focused on what’s coming. We’re going for it.
“We’ll do it like in the cobbled classics. We start with several trump cards. It offers advantages over the other teams, and it also gives us confidence.”
Gilbert and Štybar may have made the headlines, but with Bob Jungels, Kasper Asgreen and Florian Sénéchal all stepping up, there was a sense that Deceuninck-Quick Step could call on anybody during the cobbled classics.
As a result, it’s hard to underestimate anybody on the team as they head to the Ardennes trio, though Gilbert and Alaphilippe lead the team.
“Julian and I are good friends,” said Gilbert. “I was immediately a fan of him, loving his way of racing, his talent, his personality.”
“Julian was strong last year, but we couldn’t finish it. We’ll see how it goes on Sunday – it’s up to the team to put me and Julian in position on the Kruisberg. Then it’s up to us.”
A four-time winner of Amstel Gold Race, Gilbert has often used Brabantse Pijl to warm up for the race, triumphing there twice. But after his Roubaix exploits, he skipped the race entirely this year, going out for a training ride rather than watch.
“I was on my bike,” he said laughing. “I only looked at the summary. It’s like every year; I know who the favourites are on Sunday.”
Of course, Mathieu van der Poel won that race, his fourth victory in what has been an electric start to the season for the Dutch champion. He’s the rider everybody is talking about, including race runner-up Julian Alaphilippe, and Gilbert marked him as one to watch too.
“Mathieu [van der Poel] is one of the favourites. That’s not new – he also showed himself in the previous races. We know he’s racing at a high level. That won’t be any different on Sunday.
“I’m going to do my best, and then we’ll see.”