Gilbert will be back; GreenEdge has arrived
One team that could throw a spanner in the works is BMC Racing with Philippe Gilbert and Thor Hushovd. Having won almost every classic worth winning last year, Gilbert has been a lot quieter this season and has yet to show his hand; some have suggested that his tough times are a rouse ahead of his first major goal at Flanders. Gilbert was dropped early at Harelbeke and did not factor at Ghent-Wevelgem. Gilbert told Het Nieuwsblad this week that he would not be ready for Flanders.
“The big question is whether Gilbert will be mentally able to handle the pressure this year,” says Kelly. “At the moment he is off the pace of last year. The press in Belgium are so demanding. Immediately they start asking questions. I think, physically, Gilbert will be able to do it unless he’s really made nervous; that’s something he’ll have to be careful of. He’ll have to take his time, make sure he doesn’t get too stressed out over things or get worried about the media pressure. He’s capable of getting it together for the Ardennes classics. He’s well able to do it.”
Kelly believes Gilbert’s new team will back him up when needed.
“BMC should be good for him. Definitely they have riders capable of doing more in the classics,” he said. “I think Thor Hushovd is a guy that seems to struggle in San Remo, goes forward to the semi-classics and struggles in them and then,” Kelly clicks his fingers, “he comes right. At Flanders we see him a bit more and then at Roubaix… he’s there. He’s that sort of guy. He’s done it that way in the past and I wouldn’t be surprised if he just appears at Flanders and Roubaix again. That should suit Gilbert, because Hushovd should be there in the very final with him and going forward, into the Ardennes, he should be up there with him too.”
With one classic victory already behind them, GreenEdge is another team Kelly reckons we haven’t seen the last of this year.
“In Paris-Nice they seemed to be struggling a bit and they’ve really pulled it together. This classic campaign is made for them already, winning Milan-San Remo. I think they’re capable of doing other things now. When you win one, everybody is a little bit more relaxed and that’s the time you can win more. They have riders capable of wining other races and in both the cobbled classics and the Ardennes classics.”