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"The Olympics, everyone knows the importance of this. The impact is different, especially for Belgium as we have never had any success there. It’s really big to have a medal, even to have bronze is really big.”

Photo: Tim De Waele/TDW Sport


03.01.2016 @ 16:34 Posted by Joseph Doherty

At 34, Philippe Gilbert is not only one of the peloton’s best riders with an amazing CV; he is also one of the sports most experienced names. He spoke to PEZ Cycling about the Olympics, Classics and the challenges of the offseason.


While Gilbert is still chasing three monuments, he says he would really like a podium in the Olympics road race, even if he isn’t sure if the course can suit him.


“It’s bigger than anything. When you say to people who don’t know about cycling and you say you won Liege, they ask you if it’s a race, they don’t know what it is. If you said you won a stage in the Tour they start to get interested or World championships, but they don’t know the rules; if it’s a ranking or a one day race. But then the Olympics it’s like; if you say you got a medal there, everyone knows the importance of this. The impact is very different, especially for a country like Belgium as we have never had any success there, one medal every ten years maybe. Really we have no success. It’s really big to have a medal, even to have bronze is really big.”


Talking about whether or not the course will suit him, the Belgian said:


“I don’t know, I haven’t had contact with the team, the National coach hasn’t contacted me yet. When he contacts me, we will find out if the course suits me or not and we will see which kind of riders he will want there.”


Gilbert spoke about trying to win the last three Monuments he hasn’t won, Roubaix, Flanders and Sanremo. He will try for sure but he says he wont even attempt Roubaix in 2016. He doesn’t know about Flanders yet.


“I just miss Sanremo, Flanders and Roubaix, so I want to try for these ones. I turn 34 next year so it’s time now. I only have my schedule to Sanremo. I start in Dubai and then I do Almería and Murcia, Vuelta del Sol, Het Nieuwsblad, Le Samyn, Paris-Nice and Sanremo.”


Turning back to the Olympics, many riders are skipping the Giro as they think the Tour is the best preparation. Gilbert has a great opinion on this, as he has done two Olympics and has prepared for one with each of the two early Grand Tours.


“I’ve ridden the Olympics twice, once with the Tour and once without and both times were good. When you look at the top ten of the Olympics it’s not 100% coming from the Tour, I think it’s 50/50. And another thing is that if you are really motivated you can train very hard also in July and be good and I think this year we have Pologne, so that also gives a possibility to be good. You can train hard, but in the end racing is the best way to get ready for a race.”


One of the reasons Gilbert may struggle in Sanremo is that the race often ends in a sprint with fast sprinters, which Gilbert struggle to match. He spoke about going from distance in the Classics.


“Every team is complete with a lot riders ready for the Classics, so it’s harder and harder. When you take a picture from the bunch with 20 K’s to go in races like; Flanders, Liege or Lombardy you have at least one team with five guys and in the past you had two or three guys maximum from one team. So now if you have a minimum of five guys from each team and so when you go and have three or four guys chasing you, it’s hard to beat them, except if it’s raining or very technical or it’s different. If the weather is nice or there is a head-wind, then it’s nearly impossible.”


Gilbert says that he is always excited at the start of the season to get going again and he doesn’t see it as just business. He says anyone who enters cycling professionally to make money and not enjoy racing is in the wrong sport.


“Sport in general if you take it only for making money, it’s the wrong way, especially cycling as it’s so hard and you have to push yourself to perform. I would not like to race if I was not fit, my goal has always been to be the best I can and I just see that over the years I have to work on my weight because it’s harder to loose weight. When I was 25 I was losing 3 kilos in one week no problem and now I need like one month, so this is the biggest difference I have seen. But for the rest, like training, my body still responds very well.”




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