Mean, Lean Philippe Gilbert Eyes Ardennes Three-Peat

Gilbert_Amstel Gold_2014

VALKENBURG, Netherlands, April 21, 2014 (AFP) – A new, leaner Philippe
Gilbert stormed to victory at the Amstel Gold Race and then set his sights on
a second Ardennes treble.
It was his third victory on the 251.8km course that began in Maastricht and
ended in Valkenburg on Sunday with a demonstration of Gilbert’s strength after
he accelerated away from the competition on the final Cauberg climb.
But having done the treble of Ardennes Classics in 2011 — he also won the
Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege — the Belgian believes his new
slimline physique and the strength of his BMC team could help him make history
by becoming the first person ever to do the treble twice.
Already the 31-year-old shares the distinction of doing the treble with
Italian David Rebellin, but the 31-year-old is not ruling out another such
“Three years ago I was a bit stronger than now because I had already won at
the beginning of the season,” he said, referring to his incredible 2011 in
which he won 18 races throughout the season, starting with the Montepaschi
Strade Bianche in early March.
“But I was in a different situation. Now, in stage races I have to work for
team-mates such as (Australian Cadel) Evans, (American Teejay) van Garderen
and now (Spaniard Samuel) Sanchez, so I have to put an X (to rule out) often
next to my stage wins.
“But that’s part of the game, sometimes I have to work for them but like
(Sunday), they worked for me.
“Everyone’s a winner. That’s why I win fewer races but it’s part of the
“We’re a big team with ambitions in many races, so everyone has to work
Following on from his stunning 2011 season, Gilbert joined BMC from Lotto
and became world champion in 2012 on this same course in the Netherlands.
But that was a far less successful season in which his only other victories
were two stages at the Tour of Spain, although he did finish third at the
Fleche Wallonne and sixth at Amstel.
In 2013 he was again close on many occasions — finishing second in the
Brabantse Pijl, fifth at Amstel and seventh at Liege — before finally
breaking his duck at September’s Vuelta.
This year, though, Gilbert says his off-season preparation went better.
“I had a good winter after a disappointing last season for me and all those
close to me,” he said.
“I really withdrew into myself and refused all requests from the outside. I
just trained and looked after myself more than before.
“Those sacrifices paid off. I could start the season with less weight and
now my weight is also interesting.
“We know that weight is a cyclist’s worst enemy and I’ve beaten my worst
Australian Simon Gerrans, the 2012 Milan-San Remo winner who finished third
on Sunday, believes Gilbert is capable of snatching another Ardennes treble.
“He’s off to a good start and he’s halfway there so anything’s possible,”
said the Orica-GreenEdge rider.
“When Philippe rode away to the finish he was obviously the strongest guy.”