Philippe Gilbert is one of the most successful riders who ever tackled the Cauberg as he won Amstel Gold Race three times and the 2012 World Championships which finished on the same fabled hill. However, the Belgian does not see himself among the favorites given the fact that he broke his finger last week due to a motorcycle incident.
“You need to be realistic. I’m not the favorite for the race on Sunday,” Gilbert said at his pre-race press conference. “I’ll set out with the status of team leader but we’ll take stock during the race depending on the circumstances. I don’t have the usual point of reference for my form from Brabantse Pijl [which Gilbert missed], and that’s always an interesting test.
“The first objective is to be there in the finale. Whether I can win, we’ll see how I am after the last ascent of the Gulpenberg.”
As a result of his injury he missed Brabantse Pijl, a race he won two times and a race which usually helps him in the preparation for the Ardennes. Moreover, he has to make some changes to how he brakes and shifts gear because of his hurt finger.
“I’ve adapted my position on the bike a little bit to be more comfortable and I’ve had to change how I handle my bike in the last few days. I’m braking with three fingers now, but I have no choice,” Gilbert said. “I’m lucky that the state of the roads in Limburg is perfect, the tarmac is very smooth there. Though unfortunately, it won’t be the same at Flèche Wallonne or Liège-Bastogne-Liège…”
Gilbert has achieved his Amstel Gold Race and 2012 Worlds win by powering away on the Cauberg while also making use of some tailwind. This time he wishes for different conditions to work in his favor.
“It could be an advantage for me if there’s a headwind on the Cauberg. It’s curious to say that when I’ve won twice with a tailwind. [The headwind] was violent on the Cauberg on Friday. In those conditions, it’s impossible to attack because you risk losing any chance two kilometres later. If there’s a headwind, there’ll still be a big group. It could end up in a sprint and I wouldn’t have any need to brake or change gear… I’m not at 100 percent of my possibilities. I’m a bit of an outsider.”, said Gilbert.
Philippe Gilbert had quite a bad start to the 2016 season, apart from his victory in Vuelta a Murcia. After crashing in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, feeling ill at Paris-Nice and missing Milan-San Remo he is hoping for a better turn out in the Ardennes starting today.
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