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“The problem isn’t his condition but the effects of the injury, and I don’t think that’s been helped by the cold either. But he’ll be at the start and these races aren’t the end of the line either"

Photo: Tim De Waele/TDW Sport




20.04.2016 @ 14:39 Posted by Joseph Doherty

After breaking a finger in a fight, Philippe Gilbert was not able to be at his best in Amstel Gold and the King of the Cauberg was dropped much earlier than he had hoped. He won Fleche Wallonne in the magical 2011 season he had, but says he is riding the race hoping to be good rather than expecting to be good this year.


“He’s getting better every day but I don’t think an awful lot can change in four or five days,” Piva told Cyclingnews in Marche-en-Famenne on Tuesday. “The problem isn’t so much his condition as the effects of the injury, and I don’t think that’s been helped by the cold either. But he’ll be at the start and these races aren’t the end of the line either, so we also have to look on the positive side of this situation and remember that these races are also important as preparation for the Giro d’Italia. Philippe’s certainly not here as one of the favourites like in other years, but he still has good motivation.”


Piva revealed that had Gilbert been fit, he would have likely skipped Fleche to be fresh for Liege, but having missed Brabantse Pijl with his injury, he needs to kilometres of today’s race for Sunday.


“We’d already discussed that plan with him. If his condition was the way it should have been, there was a possibility of skipping Flèche in order to prepare for Liège, because in recent years, Philippe has realised that he hasn’t had the freshness you need at Flèche after racing Amstel. But at this point, he needs kilometres to get his condition up, so it made no sense to skip Flèche only to turn up at Liège at less than 100 per cent anyway.”


Piva named three potential leaders who can step up to the plate if Gilbert’s finger is still stopping him from riding properly and says at the foot of the Mur de Huy leadership will be decided.


“You saw already at Amstel, we didn’t help to control the race and we certainly won’t be looking to do any differently at the races coming up,” Piva said. “Rather than controlling the race we’ll look to get riders into moves as they happen. We still have Samuel Sanchez, who’s had some good placings on the Mur de Huy. We’ve got Loïc Vliegen, who was 10th at Amstel. We’ve got Dylan Teuns, who was in the top 15 last year.”


Vliegen is the least likely to lead, but he already trains with Gilbert and after great results this year like fourth in Le Samyn, ninth in Brabantse and tenth in Amstel, many are dubbing him the “new Gilbert”.


“Loïc certainly doesn’t have any pressure on his shoulders. Obviously, it’s nice to see him already putting in a performance like that at this level, but he’s not a leader for us at this point in time,” Piva said. “He has a role like the other young riders, which is a bit freer than normal this week because Philippe won’t have the same level of support as in other years. It’s easier for them to get a result at the moment. This is a chance for them to show their worth. Loïc’s is a very good rider, but it’s a big step to go from there to talking about a new Gilbert. He needs to win races first, because Gilbert has won a lot of them.”




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