Gilbert wins Kristallen Fiets as best Belgian rider

Philippe Gilbert cannot contain his excitement over winning the Giro di Lombardia.

Philippe Gilbert cannot contain his excitement over winning the Giro di Lombardia. (Image credit: Sirotti)

Philippe Gilbert of Silence-Lotto was awarded the Kristallen Fiets award as the best Belgian cyclist of the year. It was the second consecutive year that the 27-year-old won the trophy, an award by the Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws.

Johan Bruyneel won the award as best team director, for the sixth time, and the best young rider was European Under-23 road champion Kris Boeckmans. Stijn Vandenbergh of Katusha won the appropriately-named Kristallen Zweetdruppel, or crystal sweat drop, as best helper.

Gilbert won the trophy with 686 points, ahead of Tom Boonen (408) and cyclo-cross riders Niels Albert (330) and Sven Nys (204).

The award came at the end of a season which started off dismally for the 27-year-old, whose first year with the Belgian ProTour team got off the very bad start. “The first three months at Silence-Lotto were the worst of my career. I felt really bad,” he told Het Laatste Nieuws. "Nobody listened to me, nobody asked me anything. I sat down and asked myself, 'What the hell am I doing in this team? Why have I come here?' "

It was “a losing fight,” Gilbert admitted until one day in April, when he finished third in the Rode van Vlaanderen.

Things started getting better from then onwards. He took his first season win in the 20th stage of the Giro d'Italia, following it up with a stage win and the overall title in the Ster Elektrotoer. Gilbert skipped the Tour de France, and after riding the Vuelta a Espana as his second Grand Tour of the season, he finished sixth in the World Championships.

Then his luck turned, and he went on a streak, winning the Coppa Sabatini, Paris-Tours, Giro del Piemonte and the Giro di Lombardia, all within nine days.

Gilbert was presented the trophy by five-time winner Johan Museeuw. “It was one of the easiest choices in recent years,” Museeuw said, according to Sporza.

“Few will be able to repeat the record that Gilbert has put together in 2009,” Museeuw continued. “Philippe is also someone who can win all the classics in the future, from Milano-Sanremo to the Giro di Lombardia. But he will have the choice as to which top events he wants to win.”

The celebratory evening also had some sad notes, as the gathering paid tribute to those who had died during the year, including Frank Vandenbroucke, who won the award 10 years ago. Also noted were the passings of Frederiek Nolf, who died during the Tour of Qatar, and track cyclist Dimitri De Fauw, who committed suicide last month.

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