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“I don’t ride for placings. I’m not interested in second place, third place or fourth place. That’s losing. For me it’s all about winning."



31.10.2015 @ 14:00 Posted by Joseph Doherty

Despite not winning an Ardennes Classic in 2015, BMC’s Philippe Gilbert still enjoyed a successful season, notably winning two Giro d’Italia stages. He spoke to Cyclingnews about his 2015 season and what he hopes to achieve in 2016.


The 33 year old Belgian crashed in Fleche Wallonne and this forced him out of being able to compete in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, which really put a damper on his Ardennes Classics campaign.


“I regret crashing in Fleche Wallonne because it cost me a big chance to win either Fleche or Liege-Bastogne-Liege. I really had the legs and had done the hard work. At Amstel in the end it was almost done, I was close to winning for a fourth time but Michael Matthews killed himself to follow me and killed his own race. In a finale like that (on the Cauberg), even a little difference makes a difference between winning and losing. If you can get away alone, it’s usually done. But that’s racing.”


Gilbert denied claims that when he went on the Cauberg, as he always has done at Amstel Gold, he wasn’t as strong as in past years and this is why Matthews could stay with him. He says it was Alejandro Valverde’s tactics that cost the trio the chance to fight for the win. Gilbert was openly critical of the Spaniard.


“I don’t really understand it. I think his goal is to be number one in the (WorldTour) ranking, not winning races… He’s won the WorldTour four times and so perhaps it is special to him…”


Gilbert says the Classics will always be special as the hold a certain unpredictability that the Grand Tours just don’t have, as many riders arrive in top shape and all leaders have a feasible chance of taking the win.


“You have to work a lot to be good for the Classics but you’re never sure of winning and things can change in an instant. It’s not like a Grand Tour. I think the guys like Chris Froome and Alberto Contador pretty much know if they’re going to win or not at the start of a Grand Tour. They know their power and the ability of their team. It’s easier to know if you can win because there’s an uphill finish and then a time trial, then another mountain finish. If your watts are good, if you stay healthy and avoid crashing, then you know that you can win. In a Classic, you just don’t know, you never know what can happen.”


Gilbert actually sustained a micro fracture of his tibia at the Fleche Wallonne crash, which ruled him out of the Tour de France and made his Giro stage wins even more impressive. He says the changes to the Fleche course for 2015 were too dangerous and changes must be made.


“They’ve changed it a lot and made it perfect to have big crashes… They have big roads at the beginning and so everybody freewheels for 100km. Then you come to the climbs, every one is fresh and you go from big roads to small roads. It goes from big to small, big to small, big to small. Some of the changes are at 85km/h and have a left corner where you go from a 15 metre wide road to a five metre-wide road. It’s normal that you get a crash. I think they have to change it. Fortunately, I think they realised it and I think it’s something they’re looking at.”


Gilbert has won so much in his career that he says obtaining places like he did when he was second in San Sebastian and fourth in the Eneco Tour, plus top tens in Quebec, Montreal and Worlds don’t matter to him anymore.


“I don’t ride for placings. I’m not interested in second place, third place or fourth place. That’s losing. For me it’s all about winning. Maybe in 10 years time I’ll look back and I’ll count the times I was on the podium in a big race. But at the moment I don’t care about them. I just ride to win. Of course I try to do my best and take second if I can’t win. But first of all I try to win. That’s how I try to ride a race.”


Gilbert says he doesn’t feel old and with 2016 being an Olympic year, he is just as hungry as ever. He doesn’t know much about the course in Rio, and will know more once his BMM coach Marco Pinotti looks at the route.


“The coach from the BMC team Marco Pinotti is going to go to Rio and study the course. If he tells me it suits me, I’ll believe him. The Belgian team raced there but for them even a bridge seems hard… Everyone’s opinion is different depending on where they’re from. For an Italian even a route with 5000m of climbing is not hard, for a Belgian rider it’d be very tough. You have to know yourself. I’ll trust Pinotti.”


Gilbert has also spoken about his love for the cobbled Classics, saying he wants to race there again for the win, but Greg Van Avermaet’s presence for BMC does hinder that. Gilbert says he will still target the cobbles in his career, whether its with BMC or not.


“It’s hard to choose my big goals of the season because I like the cobbled Classics and I like racing hard. I like any kind of racing and that makes every decision difficult. But cycling is becoming more and more specific. In the past it was possible to target virtually all the Classics but now it is different, even for me. It’s also normal that the team wants to have the best riders in every race. That’s makes it harder form me to target the Tour of Flanders. I’ve finished on the podium in Flanders twice and I want to try again to win it. But when I can, I don’t know.”




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