Following another unsuccessful season, BMC plans to restructure the race schedule of former world champion Philippe Gilbert. In 2014, the Belgian is likely to skip the Tour of Flanders and the Belgian opening weekend to prepare specifically for the Ardennes classics.
When he dominated the spring classics in 2011, Philippe Gilbert seemed to do everything right and people were looking with envy at the fabulous Belgian who appeared to win whenever he wanted to. Since then, two disappointing seasons at BMC have followed and the public perception has drastically changed.
Now his BMC team has taken the decision to restructure his calendar for the 2014 season. Gilbert has been known for his ability to ride all the spring classics from Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne at the end of February to Liege-Bastogne-Liege in late April, only skipping Paris-Roubaix in that long time span.
According to BMC sports manager Alan Peiper, cycling has changed and it is no longer possible to be at your best for the entire classics season. Hence, the team plans to restructure his schedule to specifically target a few select events.
"Philippe has to skip races like Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. And you can’t combine the Tour of Flanders with the Ardennes classics,” Peiper told Het Nieuwsblad. “Gilbert is an old school cyclist. He has never even had a trainer before but the cycling world is changing. You can’t do well in the entire spring campaign from Omloop to Liège-Bastogne-Liège.”
In 2013, Gilbert started his season in January at the Tour Down Under and kept going all the way to Il Lombardia in October. That won't be the case next year.
“I discussed the past season with Philippe," Peiper said. "He understands that we have to change things. We decided on a completely different programme for next year. No Tour Down Under but the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman. He will do Tirreno-Adriatico instead of Paris-Nice to prepare for the first objective of the year: the revamped Milan-San Remo.”
As a Belgian, Gilbert has always targeted the Tour of Flanders and has finished as high as 3rd in 2010. However, his main emphasis has always been on the Ardennes classics and his participation in Flanders has prevented him from racing the traditional Ardennes preparation race, Vuelta al Pais Vasco.
Next year, Gilbert will follow a more traditional build-up to his major objective.
“We’ll do a specific training session in that period [the time from Milan-Sanremo to the Tour of Flanders] and then the Tour of Basque Country and Flèche Brabançonne so we can peak towards the Ardennes classics,” Peiper said.
Since 2011, Gilbert has raced the Tour de France but next year, the Belgian will skip the French grand tour to focus fully on the big autumn races.
“We won’t do the Tour de France with Philippe next season," Peiper said. "The world championships in Ponferrada are a main objective, followed by another big race."
Next season, Peiper plans to change the philosophy of BMC. There will be less racing and more specific training and the riders will get more specific follow-up from the team's coaches, not their individual ones. That system has been inspired by the success of Team Sky.
CyclingQuotes talked with Gilbert at the recent BMC team presentation. You can read more about his reflection on the 2013 season here and more about his goals for 2014 in future articles.
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