CHAUDFONTAINE, Belgium, April 25, 2014 (AFP) – Liege-Bastogne-Liege
favourite Philippe Gilbert is looking for a historic victory at his home
Spring Classic with Belgium’s King Philippe due to attend Sunday’s race.
Gilbert has won once before in Liege but this year’s edition will be the
100th, hence why King Philippe will be in attendance.
“To have the king at the start, this is always something very special
because this is a big symbol of Belgium,” said last weekend’s Amstel Gold Race
“We’re all Belgians, Fleming and Walloon; for me the king is the biggest
symbol we can have in Belgium and to have him at the start because of the
100th edition means a lot.
“If in future I make a book again, this picture (meeting the king before
the start of Sunday’s race) will be for sure in the book and I’ll explain this
picture to my kids. These really are rare moments and without sport or
cycling, I would never have these moments.”
The 31-year-old BMC rider won this race in 2011 when he became only the
second person to complete an Ardennes Classics treble.
And by winning the Amstel Gold last Sunday, as well as the semi-Classic
Brabantse Pijl the previous Wednesday, and finishing 10th at the Fleche
Wallonne this last Wednesday, Gilbert has proved he is in the right form to
potentially add a second victory in Liege to his achievements.
And Gilbert, who was born in Verviers in the Walloon province of Liege,
admits this race is just a little bit more special for him.
“Liege is a ‘Monument’, one of those five races you have in the season.
It’s always bigger than Amstel but I was happy to win Amstel for the third
time, and I will also give everything Sunday and try to win.”
He added: “That was the dream to win this race and I did it a few years ago
and if I can win again, it will be also very nice. I will not stop with one
win, every ‘Monument’ I try to win and do my best.”
Several times in the past Liege has been won courtesy of good teamwork,
such as last year when Ireland’s Daniel Martin used his Garmin team-mate Ryder
Hesjedal as a foil before breaking away from a small group to haul back
Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez and win by three seconds.
Gilbert’s team-mate Samuel Sanchez played a similarly important role in his
win at Amstel, launching a dummy attack on the final Cauberg climb, forcing
the Belgian’s main rivals to react and allowing Gilbert to counter-attack on
the other side of the road to go on to win.
The 36-year-old Spaniard, who only joined BMC this season, has finished in
the top 10 in Liege six times in nine previous attempts, including a best
finish of second in 2007.
“He’s very important in the team. He’s relaxed, he gives a lot of
motivation to the team and doesn’t put any pressure on you,” said Gilbert.
“Just from riding in the bunch, I knew him pretty well. I had this feeling
he’s really relaxed and that’s important.”