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“It was a perfect preparation for Ardennes. Even if it appears like pouring liquid through a funnel- it all comes with a certain pressure directed at the one spot, Gilbert is mature enough to make that work,” Peiper said

Photo: Sirotti




15.04.2014 @ 08:42 Posted by Aleksandra Górska

As the time for the Ardennes classics is finally approaching, so does the hour of truth for Philippe Gilbert. The Belgian classics specialist decided to follow entirely different spring schedule, skipping the cobbled races in an attempt to replicate his phenomenal performances from 2011 season following two years of struggles and disappointments.


The BMC sports director Allan Peiper, responsible for such significant change in Gilbert’s programme, is confident about Gilbert’s condition ahead of the Ardennes hilly races and believes that the new, more focused approach will bear fruits.


“It’s all fine with Gilbert, he is exactly where should be at this point,” Allan Peiper told Sporza.


As many other riders, Gilbert used the Vuelta al Pais Vasco hilly circuits as his final preparation event ahead of the Ardennes classics, and despite failing to claim a stage victory he delivered some aggressive showings, suggesting that both an increasing form and right motivation were there.


“His results in the Basque Country are not a reflection of his current condition. According to the team manager Valerio Piva he rode very well,” Peiper said.


“When he rode away in a large group one day, our team still chased strongly and Gilbert remained the last one to be reeled in. That was a good proof of his condition”


“It was his intention to win [a stage] in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, but we had a strong team with Evans, Van Garderen and Sanchez. They all wanted to win so it wasn’t easy to find a right balance.”


Following last two rather unsuccessful seasons, the 31-year old Belgian failed to claim a victory so far this year, but BMC manager believes that Gilbert is able to handle the pressure ahead of his season’s main objective even without such confidence boost.


“I understand that there are many doubts about Gilbert’s shape. He tried to outwit Sagan at the Tirreno-Adriatico, but unfortunately the latter took the spoils.”


“The route of Milano-Sanremo was suitable for sprinters following the removal of the new climb. That wasn’t in Gilbert’s favour, but he went on attack on the Poggio after a whole day spent in the rain,” Peiper praised Gilbert’s performance at the Milano-Sanremo.


“We was caught at the top, but it has stricken me that no one could or wanted to counter-attack. That’s where he draws his confidence from. A little bit of luck at the right moment would be enough [to turn thing around].”


"Gilbert is mature enough to absorb pressure "


Encouraged by Peiper, Gilbert skipped all of the cobbled events to focus exclusively on the Ardennes classics, including Liege-Bastogne-Liege.


“It was the perfect preparation for the Ardennes classics. Even if it appears like pouring liquid through a funnel – it all comes with a certain pressure directed at the only one spot, Gilbert is mature enough to make that work,” Peiper explained.


“From the Brabantse Pijl up to the Liege-Bastogne-Liege he will have four opportunities to win. In recent years he was able to spread his energy sufficiently for different races. If after Liege we will assess this approach unsuccessful, we will review out strategy for next year.”


The 31-year old classics specialist will receive his first opportunity to shine on Wednesday, in the Brabantse Pijl, and the BMC manager emphasized that there is no such a thing as treating races exclusively as preparation events, as Gilbert always has ambition to win.


“Phil is a winner. He always goes for a victory, so I expect nothing else in the Brabantse Pijl.”


“In fact, we will have bikes delivered to our hotel tomorrow because he already wants to train. He wants everything to be in right order before his arrival in the afternoon. The fact that he want to control everything to the last detail in a testament of his dedication.”


However, Gilbert will be forced to tolerate a presence of another key BMC rider – Samuel Sanchez, in the squad.


“That’s a good thing. Terpstra probably wasn’t the best rider in the Paris-Roubaix, but OPQS had three riders in the finale what allows you to play different cards.”


“Thus, when Philippe enters the finale alongside Sanchez, perhaps some attention will be kept away from him.”


“You can shoot me if it does not work,” Peiper concluded.



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