Archive for the ‘Philippe Gilbert Special’ Category

A Conversation With Fast Phil – current #1 in UCI rankings

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

After his four consecutive wins in April in major classics, Omega Pharma-Lotto’s Philippe Gilbert is currently the #1 ranked rider in the UCI World Tour classification. Fast Phil’s chosen weapon is an Omega Pharma-Lotto team issue Canyon Aeroad CF 9.0 bicycle. After a well earned break from competition, Phil will be back in competition at the Tour of Belgium in late June. Canyon recently chatted with Gilbert at his home in Monaco.

Canyon: Michael Rich brought you a new Aeroad CF frame before Liège-Bastogne-Liège with a special paint job. How do you like it?
Philippe Gilbert: Yeah I really like it; I like the way Canyon comes up with something special for me. I want something different than like the Italians do, with an animal or something. I’m not Italian so that wouldn’t work. So I thought “Fast Phil” was a good way to go.

Canyon: Well you are a pretty fast rider…
Philippe Gilbert: [Laughs] Sure so it’s not too bad to have “Fast Phil” on my bike.

Canyon: You didn’t want a gorilla on your bike like your teammate André Greipel?
Philippe Gilbert: No not at all.

Canyon: Phil, I believe you have been riding the Canyon Aeroad CF 9.0 Team since last year’s Tour of Belgium…that’s your bicycle of choice. How come?
Philippe Gilbert: I am very particular about my bicycle and I have found that the Aeroad CF is the best bicycle for me. I worked with Canyon and gave them feedback on how the bike should be. We worked together and I am quite satisfied. It’s important that the Aeroad is rigid and has aerodynamic qualities. I like the design, too; it gives me motivation to ride a bike like that.

Canyon: After you have finished your spring racing campaign with those four wins, what is the rest of your program for 2011?
Philippe Gilbert: Well I had a very, very good classics season and then took a break from racing as I already planned. It’s a long season, but so far the timing for my program has been perfect since I started training last December.

Canyon: Do you consider Liège-Bastogne-Liège or Flèche Wallonne your home race?
Philippe Gilbert: Well even the Amstel Gold Race is close to where I lived in Belgium [Gilbert now resides in Monaco] and I know all of the roads for these races very well. I also know the Giro di Lombardia and Tour of Flanders well. As riders we have to learn the courses well. Maybe I know Liège a little better but we know all the races.

Canyon: Just curious, Phil, but what were you thinking about when you passed the finish line first in the race of your dreams, Liège-Bastogne-Liège? What was it like?
Philippe Gilbert: It was magnificent feeling for me, a dream come true. You know it’s rare in life you get to realize a dream. So it was very special for me.

Canyon: After your win in Liège, you went back to your hometown, Remouchamps on the La Redoute climb for your supporters’ club party. Did you have a good time there?
Philippe Gilbert: Oh yes, there were a lot of people at the party, my friends and family so it was a great time. Magnificent… really big.

Canyon: Many noticed you brought your six month old son Alan up on the podium with you at Amstel Gold.
Philippe Gilbert: I brought him on the podium at Amstel and Liège. I wanted to share the moment with him and even if he didn’t know what was going on it will certainly be a good memory for him when he gets older.

Canyon: Phil what are your objectives for the rest of the 2011 season?
Philippe Gilbert: For me, all the races are important. I race to win; I am not going to the Tour de France to go for the classement général as I have not prepared for this. But my goal at the Tour is to win at least one stage and maybe more.

Canyon: Have you studied the course of the Tour de France for which stages look interesting?
Philippe Gilbert: Yes, perhaps Stage Three is interesting and some others… I am thinking about.

Canyon: Phil, after the Tour what is your race program? Is it too soon to say if you will do the Vuelta a España, where you won two stages and led the race for a while in 2010?
Philippe Gilbert: It’s really too soon to say now. I will decide what to do for the end of the season after the Tour.

Canyon: What about the World Championships in Copenhagen? Many people saw the coverage of the pre-ride you did of the course with Tom Boonen.
Philippe Gilbert: It’s not bad. It’s a course for the sprinters but it’s not bad.

Canyon: Phil, you have won the Giro di Lombardia twice, Amstel Gold Race twice and now Liège-Bastogne-Liège. That leaves the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and Milano-Sanremo. Is it a goal for you in the future to win all the one day monuments of cycling?
Philippe Gilbert: Yes that is a goal for me without a doubt.

Canyon: Which is the hardest one to win?
Philippe Gilbert: Sanremo. Any rider can win Sanremo so that makes it hard to win. It’s actually an easy race that even lesser riders can win with luck.

Canyon: At 29 years of age, some observers wonder if Phil Gilbert isn’t on the same path as your fellow Belgian great Eddy Merckx, headed towards becoming a Grand Tour rider.
Philippe Gilbert: Sure why not? I have the time to work towards that in the future. I want to continue to win the classic races but then look towards becoming a Grand Tour rider.

Canyon: How many more years do you see yourself as a bike racer, Phil?
Philippe Gilbert: Oh for a while…probably until I don’t feel it anymore, when it gets too hard.

Philippe Gilbert – THE superstar of the Omega Pharma-Lotto team

Friday, May 13th, 2011

He is Belgian Sports Personality of the year, Belgian Cyclist of the Year and has won the Kristallen Fiets in three consecutive years – Philippe Gilbert is an absolute superstar in his native Belgium. He has also ridden his way into the hearts of fans outside Belgium and enjoys recognition from both cycling fans and the riders in the peloton. In the 2011 season he is by far the most successful rider in the spring classics.

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True to the spirit of saving the best for last Gilbert has consistently improved his form and peaked just at the right time. He began memorizing the route of the Tour of Flanders very early on, trained on his home turf for Liege-Bastogne-Liege and deliberately did not take part in the “Queen of the classics”? When he was asked why he hadn’t taken part in the hell of the north, where it is often crashes that decide the outcome of the race, he said, “Paris-Roubaix is a race that can put an end to your career”.

Strengthened by set-backs

Phil overcomes set-backs very well and he appears to emerge from them even stronger. One of his main aims in 2010 was the world championships in Geelong. Everything was set up for a victory. His form was perfect and he was by far the strongest rider in the entire race but only managed 18th place after his 6th place finish in 2009. What went wrong? On the penultimate climb he threw all his eggs into one basket and attacked but his efforts were thwarted by the strong headwind and he was unable to drop the peloton, which had been cut to pieces by the extremely tough race. At the finish line it was Thor Hushovd who became world champion. However, just one week later Philippe again found his peak form, firstly defending his title at the Tour of Piedmont and later at the Tour of Lombardy.

With the disappointment of missing out on the world title still on his mind, he used the winter to do some intensive preparation and to impressive effect as we have now seen.

A decision straight from the heart – Philippe returns to his native Belgium

Philippe learned his trade as a racing cyclist with La Française des Jeux. In 2002, when he was a Stagiaire (trainee), he made it right to the top of the podium on four occasions. Therefore it was a mere formality that he was offered a pro contract, thereby integrating him into the team on a long-term basis. In the subsequent years he worked diligently on his form focusing on the classics. With several victories in less prestigious events he underscored his potential time and time again and took part in his first major stage race in 2004. At the Giro d’Italia he rode for his captain Bradley McGee, who finished 8th in the overall classification. In the subsequent four years the team insisted that Gilbert start the Tour de France although this was something which the Walloon was not 100% keen on even back then, because he would have preferred to concentrate on the classics and gain important victories in them.

Therefore the only noteworthy win at the spring classics between 2003 and 2007 in his list of victories was at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in 2006. It was in 2008 that he made it onto the podium in one of the monuments of cycling, even though it was not in his native Belgium but at Milan-San-Remo, the so-called “race to the sun”. Three weeks prior to that he had triumphed for the second time at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. He then began to wonder whether La Française des Jeux really was the right team for him. It was above all the future prospect of riding as captain of a Belgian team at the classics that made him decide to join Silence-Lotto. “I didn’t decide in favour of the most lucrative offer. Six pro teams wanted to sign me. I looked carefully at all the offers on the table”, said Phil after he decided in favour of the team from his native Belgium. Marc Sergeant, his new Team Manager said even back then, “We really do want him. He is one of the best riders in the world”. Philippe has certainly paid back the trust put in him back then with some extraordinary performances.

Not just a lottery but a major success story – Gilbert’s time with Silence-Lotto und Omega Pharma-Lotto

Now riding Canyon bikes Phil really picked up momentum. In the spring he made it onto the podium at the Tour of Flanders and demonstrated his strength in his Wallonian homeland at the Amstel Gold Race and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, finishing 4th in both events. His victory in the penultimate stage of the Giro d’Italia in May wasn’t just his first win a major stage race, but also hoisted Canyon onto the podium of a major tour for the very first time.

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However, that was only the first part of his planning for the season. In consultation with the team managers from Silence-Lotto he did not take part in the Tour de France and left the world’s greatest stage race to other key men. Phil then concentrated on the latter part of the season in autumn. It was to be a golden October for him with four victories in just nine days! He claimed the Coppa Sabatini, Paris-Tours, the Tour of Piedmont and finally the Tour of Lombardy. Philippe Gilbert had now won his first monument of cycling and was hungry for more.

When in 2010 the first whisperings from the critics came that Phil was perhaps not capable of winning a big spring classic, he answered these doubts in no uncertain terms. Although the team had to wait a long time for the first win of the season, it was one of the most important of the last few years for Gilbert and the team. The Walloon triumphed at the Amstel Gold Race! However, in that season a further highlight was planned. Philippe had his eyes on the world championship, which he missed out on although he was the strongest rider in the field. In spite of this set-back he was still able to repeat his victory in both the Tour of Lombardy and the Tour of Piedmont. Prior to that he was able to win two stages of the Vuelta seemingly in passing and even wore the leader’s red jersey on five occasions. At the end of that event he moved up to third place in the UCI-Ranking!

This season he has started where he left off last season, namely with outstanding victories and a style of riding that is impossible to match. With his 3rd place finish in Milan-San-Remo he was not quite able to achieve his main goal, but once again made it onto the podium after 2008, although his joy was restrained as he would have preferred to have been in top spot. However the spring was not yet over and he consistently improved his form. Although he only managed to finish 9th in the Tour of Flanders, his focus was clearly on the Wallonian classics. Even before the key week he secured victory in the Brabant Arrow. He then impressively defended his title at the Amstel Gold Race, and was then victorious at Flèche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. It was plain for all to see just how much he enjoyed celebrating the victory at Liege-Bastogne-Liege in front of his home fans. His fiercest rivals Andy and Frank Schleck were full of praise for Philippe at the end of the race saying, “There was just no stopping Gilbert at the finish. He was simply too strong for us”.

An all-rounder who can win on all types of course

There is no specific type of course which seems to suit Phil best. The long distance classics are of course his forte, but he is equally capable of competing in rather flat events such as Milan-San-Remo as well as events like Flèche Wallonne, which finishes on a climb. Before Flèche Wallonne Phil said that the Wall of Huy would be too tough for him, however it was here that he dropped his rivals and proved that he can hold his own on the climbs too. For Gilbert it is important that the race is made really tough because in a bunch sprint he is not quite fast enough to be in the mix with the top sprinters. However, if he is able to drop the out-and-out sprinters before the finish, he is more than capable of winning both alone and from a small breakaway group. When asked about the 2011 world championship course in Copenhagen, Phil commented that it wasn’t hard enough for him…

An unbeatable act to follow! Phil triumphs on the Muur van Huy

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Before the start of the race he had said that the final climb was too tough for him and passed on his role as race favourite to riders like Contador and Schleck. However, when it all came down to it he was wide awake and top fit. Philippe convincingly won Flèche Wallone and celebrated his third victory within a week.

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The memories of autumn 2009 all came flooding back. Back then Philippe won 4 races in just two weeks and thanks to his outstanding form at the end secured his place in the history books with victory in one of the monuments of cycling. Approaching the close of the spring classics season he has already scooped three wins and on Sunday the next monument of cycling, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, takes place. So all bodes well for Phil in Sunday’s race.

However, in his present form “Fast Phil” won’t be in need of any lucky omens. This is because the classic rider, who is currently revered in the press as the world’s best, can rely on both his leg power and own team. The team also bolstered him again today. Jelle Vanendert’s sixth place finish wrapped up Omega Pharma-Lotto’s second top ten finish.

At the start of the race an early breakaway group formed that was able at one point to gain a 17-minute lead on the main field but was eventually swallowed up on the hilly final section of the race. When the race then all came back together, Pineau and Marcato jumped off front but were reeled in about 1 kilometre from the finish. A few hundred metres from the finish line Philippe wound up the sprint and showed the entire peloton a clean pair of heels. When he reached the top of the climb he revelled in the celebrations of his victory. One simply can’t get more spectacular than that.

Defending his title: Gilbert wins Amstel Gold Race

Monday, April 18th, 2011

He’s the first rider to have won the Amstel Gold Race on two consecutive occasions for 31 years. Philippe Gilbert is also the only rider to date who has triumphed twice on the Cauberg because the Dutch Ardennes classic has only been finishing here since 2003. “This week is the most important in my season and I’ve been feeling good about everything since Wednesday. The team was very strong and this also made me strong and helped me to conserve precious energy. I only really had to put a shift in over the last 3 kilometres to bring back Andy Schleck”, said Phil after his victory. Phil continued saying, “Andy took off at the right moment but I still had Jelle Vanendert at my side and knew he would be able to keep Andy within reach. However, when the gap grew to 16 seconds, I started to get worried. I spoke to the riders from Rabobank, but they weren’t that interested in working together with us. Oh well, never mind, as the race favourite it was then my responsibility to step up the pace”.

After the finish, which Phil won convincingly, he came in for praise from teammates and team personnel alike. Team Manager of the Omega Pharma-Lotto team Marc Sergeant said about his protégé’s sprint, “I’m still a little lost for words. At one point I thought he had missed the boat but Philippe had the support of his team and was later able to break away superbly from the main field. I’ve never seen anything like it before. What he pulled out of his pocket was terrific”. Phil’s teammate Jelle Vanendert, who paved the way for Gilbert’s pursuit of Andy Schleck, was over the moon saying, “Our tactics really paid off today. Our team was alert and everybody did his job. That was important as we had a strong head wind. It was my task to work for Gilbert at the foot of the Cauberg and that worked out really well. Gilbert can hardly lose on a finish like that”. Björn Leukemans, one of Phil’s strongest opponents, took his hat off to Gilbert’s performance and said, “I’m happy for Gilbert. If one looks at how he took up the chase after Schleck, he was a worthy winner. If you are strong enough to ride away from everybody on the Cauberg, then that is really something! And because I’m a little patriotic I’m happy that a Belgian won the race”.

RADSPORT / AMSTEL GOLD RACE / 17.04.2011 / ROTH

Looking ahead to the two upcoming Ardennes classics Gilbert is clearly focused on Liege-Bastogne-Liege this weekend. When cyclingnews.com asked Phil whether he believes he is the strongest rider in the peloton, the likeable Walloon answered, “I can achieve good results in Flanders, but also at Milan-San-Remo, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and in Lombardy. I’m not saying that I’m the best or second best. That will be judged at the end of my career. Now I’d just like to continue training and riding my races. If I continue to achieve good results, then I’ll be happy”. Looking forward to end of the spring classics season Gilbert adds, “It’s still a bit early to be thinking about Liege. Let us first enjoy this success. If this is the icing on the cake, then Liege would be the cherry on top”.

After De Brabantse Pijl Win, Gilbert Ready For Amstel & Ardennes Challenges

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Omega Pharma-Lotto’s Philippe Gilbert made an impressive solo counter-attack to bridge to the breakaway group in the De Brabantse Pijl then bested Björn Leukemans in a two-up sprint to take his fourth win of the season on his Canyon Aeroad CF.

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“It’s been my goal since the start of the season to be in top form now,” said Gilbert after his win. “I didn’t start my season too bad and won some races along the way. Every week my form has gone up a notch and I’m approaching the level I’m supposed to be at, being 100% for Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

“Liège is a completely different race compared to De Brabantse Pijl, it’s much harder. I was happy to win De Brabantse Pijl as it gives me confidence for the upcoming week. Now I know that I’m good and that I can count on my team;I need them to support me. Now I know that they’ll be strong enough to assist me on Sunday in Amstel Gold and especially the following Sunday in Liège-Bastogne-Liège.”

Philippe Gilbert has admitted he has put “pressure” on his Omega Pharma-Lotto teammates for the upcoming Ardennes Classics and especially for Liège-Bastogne-Liège on April 24, his major target of spring 2011. Gilbert, defending champion at Amstel Gold Race will be a top contender at the races coming up on his home roads of Wallonia. “My goal was to be at my best at this time,” the Belgian told L’Equipe newspaper after his De Brabantse Pijl win.Gilbert needs his Omega Pharma-Lotto teammates to be at a certain level to support him at ‘La Doyenne’, Liège-Bastogne-Liège. “I hope my team will be strong enough,” Gilbert said. “I admit I’ve put a little pressure on them. Riders like Van Den Broeck and Bakelants have gone to prepare at altitude and we have remained in close contact so that I can follow their training. This victory is also to tell them that they didn’t do their work for nothing.”

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The Omega Pharma-Lotto leader revealed that he was wary of possible attacks coming from teams that have several top men instead of just one designated leader. “I don’t need to be protected during the first 200 kilometres, but if I want to beat Katusha with Kolobnev, Ivanov and Rodriguez, I’ll need some help in the finale,” Gilbert said. “Last year in Liège, that put me into trouble. I found myself facing Contador and Vinokourov, for example. There could also be the two Schlecks and I’m worried about that situation a little.”