Philippe Gilbert’s participation at Liège-Bastogne-Liège is still in doubt after his mid-week crash at Flèche Wallonne. The former champion was named in BMC’s line-up for La Doyenne but has said that he may still chose not to race if he hasn’t recovered sufficiently. Gilbert was one of four BMC riders to collide with the tarmac on Wednesday, forcing him to abandon the race.
“If I cannot push tomorrow on the pedals very hard then I cannot do the race so better not start. We will see tomorrow,” said Gilbert. “It’s behind the muscles, but it’s pretty deep, which is why it’s not so easy first to locate it and then to work on it. We do our best and I wish I had more time, like an extra week or something but it’s like this. We have to do it with the time we have.”
The Ardennes races have not gone to plan so far for Gilbert, who failed to defend his Amstel Gold title last weekend before the crash at Flèche Wallonne. He twisted his knee in the incident after his shoe got stuck in the pedal and was unable to ride his bike the following day. Gilbert didn’t join his teammates on Friday morning for a reconnaissance ride of the final 80 kilometres of the Liège-Bastogne-Liège route but was able to complete a three-hour long ride over a flatter parcours.
“It’s still a hard course if you ride the final of Liège and especially with the steep climbs you have to go hard - even if you climb them slow it’s very hard,” explained Gilbert. “That’s why I didn’t take any risks and I didn’t push a lot on the pedals because I still have to recover. It’s still painful. I first want to give more time to recover, we can have more treatment. I will see tomorrow if I can do some sprints and we’ll see if it’s possible or not for Sunday because it’s always a big difference between just riding the bike and going hard in a race, like sprinting after the corners or over the climbs.”
Tejay Van Garderen has been named as a potential alternative should Gilbert not be able to keep up the pace over this tougher parcours. Nevertheless, Gilbert will start the day as the main leader with the team assessing his form throughout the race. The Belgian continues to get better and believes that he can get into the mix but says that he won’t know how he’s really going until it gets to the pointy end of the race.
“Yesterday I was not able to ride a bike but it’s improving a lot, it’s really fast so it's interesting,” he said. “If the race is easy, like last year where it’s 80 guys in the final 10 kilometres then I can be there. but then we don’t have any pressure because we still don’t know if I’m able to do the final because the real intensity is in the last 10 kilometres. Before this you’re always able to follow. I’m not expecting to be dropped after 200 kilometres, unless it’s very painful.”
This latest crash is the third serious one of Gilbert’s season so far, after being hit by a car during training last December. Gilbert also came down heavily on the descent of the Poggio during this year’s Milan-San Remo, when he slipped out on a corner.
“Two times it was frustrating because I was in front and you know when it happens you have the guys who are behind who are less fresh and a crash happens quickly behind,” said Gilbert. “Mentally, it’s not the best situation but I say to myself, nothing is broken I still do my job and I still do what I like so I don’t have to complain.”