Marc Sergeant declared Cadel Evans' World Championship victory in Mendrisio on Sunday the ideal remedy for one of the most difficult seasons of the Australian's nine-year career. The Belgian manager said he had also been pleased with the performance of Evans' Silence-Lotto teammate Philippe Gilbert, who finished the race in sixth.
"We've had a difficult year, and that's putting it mildly. Cadel's World title makes up for it," Sergeant told Sporza. The Silence-Lotto principal was on hand in Mendrisio to witness Evans' win.
Despite disappointment at the first of Evans' season goals, the Tour de France, Sergeant admitted that the World title had been a priority throughout the season. "Earlier this year he spoke about the World Championship. After an unsuccessful Tour [de France], the Vuelta was the best preparation for a good race today. I convinced him to ride the Vuelta. Today was his chance and he has finished the job."
Evans was one of two big hopes for the World Championships from the Silence-Lotto stable. Belgian Philippe Gilbert had also been marked as a pre-race favourite, with his abilities expected to suit the challenging Mendrisio course. After a sixth-place finish Sergeant was also quick to praise the efforts of the Walloon rider.
"Philippe Gilbert was also 110% today. He too had been working for a year for this World Championship," he said. "The attack from Evans caught everyone by surprise; Gilbert did well to finish sixth."
Gilbert himself was not quite so glowing in his appraisal of his the result. However, the 27-year-old was quick to acknowledge the performances of his Belgian teammates. "Oh yes, sixth or seventh, I don't really care," Gilbert told Sporza. "I came to win."
"I was focused on [Italian Damiano] Cunego, who I think was the strongest man in the race. My result is not super, but the World Championship was good. It's been a long time since I've seen the Belgian team work so well together."
Gilbert singled out Tom Boonen for particular praise and also recognized the efforts of the Australian team, who took control of the peloton after a mid-race escape by a group of almost 30 riders. Boonen and Greg Van Avermaet were both part of the move, which had been precipitated by the Italian team after 165 kilometres.
"The team has worked well, but it was a strange race. After the escape that included [Alessandro] Ballan, nobody wanted to work in the pack except the Australians. Tom [Boonen] was in the escape [with Ballan], but was still fresh and helped me a great deal in the finale. His performance was beautiful."
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