Road

Philippe Gilbert: Liège-Bastogne-Liège not on my mind

HUY, Belgium (VN) — Philippe Gilbert will wake up Thursday morning as he did Monday, focused on recovering from a tough, winning effort in the hills near his hometown of Verviers, Belgium. So says the winner of all three high profile hilly classics contested this spring.

April 13: Gilbert wins Brabantse Pijl
April 13: Gilbert wins Brabantse Pijl

HUY, Belgium (VN) — Philippe Gilbert will wake up Thursday morning as he did Monday, focused on recovering from a tough, winning effort in the hills near his hometown of Verviers, Belgium. So says the winner of all three high profile hilly classics contested this spring (Montepaschi-Strade Bianchi, Amstel Gold Race and Fleche Wallonne) plus the Brabantse Pijl.

March 5: Gilbert wins Montepaschi-Strade Bianchi
March 5: Gilbert wins Montepaschi-Strade Bianchi

Gilbert, winner of Wednesday’s La Flèche Wallonne, 65 kilometers from Verviers, said he was not yet ready to talk about Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the race he holds in highest regard.

“(Today’s win) doesn’t change anything for Sunday. I’m already one of the biggest favorites,” he said. “I will always start with the idea to win, but not too much confidence.”

La Doyenne is now the only Ardennes classic Gilbert has not won. It is also the race he covets most. The route of oldest classic runs near the town where the Walloon grew up and its roads have been Gilbert’s frequent training grounds. The Mont Theux climb is an 11-kilometer ride from Verviers.

When asked Wednesday if he would trade his wins this week at Brabantse, Amstel Gold and Flèche Wallonne, Gilbert dodged, but his smile did not conceal the answer well.

April 20: Gilbert wins Fleche Wallonne
April 20: Gilbert wins Fleche Wallonne

“Of course if I win on Sunday at Liège it would be fantastic, but it’s still too far away. I don’t want to think about that too much,” he said. “Tomorrow I’ll focus on recovery and training.”

April 17: Gilbert wins Amstel Gold Race
April 17: Gilbert wins Amstel Gold Race

Gilbert returned north to Maastricht, Netherlands, Wednesday night with his team. The Omega Pharma-Lotto hotel is 100 meters from the Meuse River and further than any other team’s from the parcours for Sunday. It is there that Gilbert will rest Thursday and begin to turn his mind to churning out 255 kilometers over the 10 tough climbs marking the finale of the Ardennes season.

It is Sunday when Gilbert will carry the hopes of Verviers and Wallonnia to join Davide Rebellin as only the second rider to sweep through the Ardennes in a single season.