Philippe Gilbert (BMC) has declared himself pleased with his condition ahead of the Belgian national championships, but warned that the sizable Lotto Belisol and Omega Pharma-QuickStep contingents would hold the key to the race.
“The national championships are always a special race and if the big teams are represented in the first break, it could all be over after one lap. Who would ride behind then? It would be very difficult to organise in any case,” Gilbert told La Dernière Heure.
The world champion will have three BMC teammates alongside him on Sunday – Greg Van Avermaet, Yannick Eijssen and Klaas Lodewyck – and the climb of the Côte d’Ortho seems well-suited to his characteristics. Gilbert believes his chances would be better, however, if the race were the same length as a monument classic.
“In the end, this championship is only 220 kilometres long. It’s a distance that all of the professionals at the start will be able to handle,” Gilbert said. “If you add another 30 kilometres, that makes a big difference. It means, for instance, that if the break still has a five-minute lead after 200km it’s going to be very difficult to go and bring them back, whereas in a 250km race, that wouldn’t be a problem.”
After working for Mathias Frank and Tejay van Garderen at the Tour de Suisse, Gilbert is satisfied that he has the legs to take his first victory since becoming world champion in Valkenburg last September. “My condition is there and so is the speed,” he said.
Gilbert also confirmed that he has stepped down from his role with the UCI Athletes Commission. The Belgian joined a number of riders across the various disciplines, including Bernhard Eisel, Marianne Vos and Sven Nys, on the commission when it was established in November 2011.
“My programme this summer and autumn as well as the arrival of my second child have brought me to take this decision,” Gilbert said in a statement on his website. “It needs time that I don’t have. “I hope in any case that the commission can continue to achieve good things and improve the future of our sport.”