Gilbert wins Belgian road nationals

33-year-old Philippe Gilbert wins the Belgian national championship road race ahead of Tim Wellens

BRUSSELS (AFP) — BMC’s Philippe Gilbert won his second Belgian road race title on Sunday ahead of Tim Wellens (Lotto – Soudal).

The one-day classics specialist broke clear of the peloton with 30km left alongside Wellens before triumphing in a two-up sprint for the line. Gilbert’s BMC teammate Greg Van Avermaet nabbed third.

Gilbert, 33, was also Belgian champion in 2011, a year before he won the world championship road race in the Netherlands.

“The final was a hard one because Wellens went full gas,” Gilbert said. “I was able to respond to his attacks and I was always there, really focusing on the sprint. I didn’t want to start playing too far from the line in case the others came back, so we really waited until the last kilometer. I was nervous because I wanted to win so much. When you are in this situation it is there that you make mistakes. So I was trying to think positive thoughts and think of my family and my future, and not going crazy. That’s what I did and that relaxed me a bit.

“It’s completely different to my first championship. When I won in 2011 I was in the best period of my career. I wasn’t expecting to win then because the course didn’t suit me too much. But here I was working really hard after my accident in April to get back to this level.”

Gilbert, who is skipping the Tour de France this year, will likely debut the Belgian champion’s jersey in the upcoming Tour of Poland.