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Gilbert takes over UCI WorldTour rankings in Québec

Following his win in Friday’s Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec, Philippe Gilbert has taken over the lead of the individual UCI World Tour rankings from Tour de France winner Cadel Evans.

Taking the lead in the rankings has been a goal of Gilbert’s since the Tour. Evans has announced he is not racing again this season, nor is third-placed Alberto Contador so Gilbert has a lock on the title.

“Everyone knew that I wanted to win this race, but the six points that I needed (to pass Evans’ total) were difficult to get,” said Gilbert at the post-race press conference. “I had a lot of pressure.”

Although the 12.6km circuit suited Gilbert, he was left without teammates to help him toward the end of the race. Tired, and facing a strong wind, he tried to attack on the second to last lap, but was reeled in by the group behind him.

“However, in the final lap, the peloton was thinned out and there were only 10 of us in the break,” said Gilbert. “I knew with 10 guys, I could finish fourth or fifth and I could relax and concentrate on winning. My goal of winning the 6 points was achieved. Once the title was ensured, I knew I could go for the finale.”

And that is exactly what Gilbert did. On the last lap, he launched his final attack on the 9 percent Côte de la Potasse, and only Robert Gesink (Rabobank) was able to follow him. As they hit the final stretch toward the finish, Gilbert opened up a three second gap to take the win and ensure his spot at the top of the UCI WorldTour rankings.

“It was really a dream, something extraordinary,” said Gilbert. “Last year was a big year, and this year was truly incredible — 2011 will remain an exceptional season for me.”

The 2011 season has in fact been an exceptional one for Gilbert; he has won the Amstel Gold Race, Fleche Wallone, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Clasica San Sébastian, the Belgian road and time trial championships, and the opening stage of the Tour de France, which netted him a day in the maillot jaune.

However, despite Gilbert’s extraordinary success this season, he still has his sights set on some of cycling’s biggest monuments.

“I have always wanted to win the biggest races, the great classics,” said Gilbert. “There is still Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix, and the Tour of Flanders.

“I have won stages at the three grand tours, but I would also like to wear the pink jersey at the Giro,” he added. “I have held the leader’s jersey in all of the grand tours except for the Giro.”

Asked if his win in Québec – and the assurance of winning the UCI WorldTour individual rankings – might prevent him from taking the start in Sunday’s Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal, Gilbert quipped that the trip was too long to come to Canada to not race in Montréal.

Nevertheless, he said that, after ensuring his WorldTour win, he would start on Sunday with a lot less pressure.

“Everything that comes now is a bonus,” he said.

WorldTour rankings after Québec:

The last remaining races in the 2011 WorldTour are Sunday’s Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal, the Vuelta a España (which wraps up Sunday), the Tour of Beijing and the Tour of Lombardy. The rankings below do not include points earned at the Vuelta, where the overall win is worth 170 points and stage wins garner 16 points.