Former cycling greats Sean Kelly and Lucien Van Impe have encouraged Philippe Gilbert to try and win the points ranking in this year's Tour de France. The two are not unanimous on the Belgian's chance for the overall rankings, but agreed that the Belgian probably has too much hard racing in his legs this year to achieve a high finish in the French Grand Tour.
“I think it would be a mistake to go for the GC", Kelly told La Derniere Heuer. “His priority should be the green jersey.”
The Irishman said that he did not think the Omega Pharma-Lotto rider would do much better than 20th or 25th. “Not this year anyway. The Tour is hard and in my years, those who rode the Tour also did the Classics, like Hinault, Fignon, LeMond, Kuiper, Zoetemelk, Criquielion ... Now there are guys who just ride the Tour. Philippe has been riding since March.”
Kelly, who won the points ranking four times, said that “I don't see him yet able to finish eighth or ninth in the Tour, not this year. He has done far too much.
“But he can take points for the green jersey in the mountains, in the intermediate sprints, in some finishes. In the climbs it will definitely happen. He can take advantage of the situation, the absence of his opponents.”
Kelly, 55, rode professionally from 1977 to 1994. He won nine of the Classics Monuments and a total of 193 pro races, including the overall victory in Paris-Nice for seven consecutive years.
Van Impe sees chances
Van Impe thinks that Gilbert may have a good chance at the GC. "Quite honestly, to see how it works for now, I think you never know what he may be able to do," he said. "Anyway, I think it's exactly the moment [or year] to do so. He has nothing to lose. And his team either since the withdrawal of Jurgen Van den Broeck.
“He is in great shape and must try,” he continued. “Once in the life of a rider, he must meet this challenge. In addition, it will be a very good test for the future. "
But Van Impe agreed that perhaps Gilbert has already done too much this season. “I ask myself whether especially in the second part of the Tour, Philippe does not pay for his efforts during the Classics season.”
He would like to see how far Gilbert could go, though, saying he “has a fantastic potential and, even if the mountains are not really his field, I think he can make a good placing. Let us not forget that many leaders have either disappeared or are experiencing physical problems because of the many falls that marked the start of the Tour.”
However, he trusts that the Belgian champion “will not make a reckless effort. He will find his limit and will always have his first goal in mind: to have the green jersey on his shoulders in Paris. "
Van Impe, 64, won the Tour in 1976 and won the mountain ranking at the Tour six times in his 19-year career.