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

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.

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