Marc Sergeant has dampened speculation Philippe Gilbert could target the yellow jersey in the Tour de France one day. The Omega Pharma Lotto manager was reacting to media hype surrounding his Classics star, who after a successful season has been mooted as a grand tour contender for the future.
"We’ve talked about it. I think in the first place he meant that he would try and aim at the Vuelta or Giro,” Sergeant told Cyclingnews.
"I know that it could be too hard to try at the Tour de France where the riders there are at the highest level and he was certainly talking about the future, not 2011. Let's say he wins Amstel again and perhaps one day the Tour of Flanders, then he can turn around and say that he’s proved he’s one of the best one-day riders and now he’s going to try and tackle something different but we have to wait and see,” Sergeant explained.
Gilbert had his most successful year to date, winning Amstel, Lombardia, two stages in the Vuelta and the Giro del Piemonte.
"He has a great background. His body has developed in the right direction but if he really goes for GC he’s going to lose a lot of qualities he has now. He has to lose four or five kilos at least. But it’s just an ambition now and it’s not something he’s focussed on at the moment,” Sergeant continued.
Sergeant will start next season with arguably his strongest squad since the days of Cadel Evans and Robbie McEwen were on the team, having signed sprinter Andre Greipel to form a three-pronged attack with Gilbert and Tour revelation Jurgen Van den Broeck.
In somewhat of a power shift, Omega now looks – on paper at least – to be the strongest team in Belgian cycling after Quick Step lost a number of riders in the off-season; however, Sergeant believes that the health of Belgian cycling is down to the rivalry between the two teams and hopes that Patrick Lefevere can stabilise his ship after finding new investment last month.
"It’s all about money. I think Patrick lost a little bit of power there. He had some difficulties finding another sponsor and that showed because he lost a lot of good riders. I don’t think it was with a smile that he let them go and it must have been painful to see those guys leave and all that potential walk away,” Sergeant said.
"But I’m not laughing. If Lotto had been left as the only team in Belgian cycling that wouldn’t have been a good situation. It’s better to have a good opponent and for several years it was like that. I hope it’s the same next year because then the winner isn’t us or them, it’s cycling.”
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