BRUSSELS, Belgium (AFP) — Belgian Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), who admits to not being in top form, has told the Belgian press that he “leaves the status of favorite to Swiss Fabian Cancellara” and rolls with “no pressure” Saturday at Milan-San Remo.
“I have been riding easy in training and I hope to have a race that’s easier at first, maybe with a headwind or something,” he said. “I’ll try to be smart and ride in a good position. Milan-San Remo can be a very strange race where anything can happen. If it’s not for me in the final, maybe it will be Alessandro Ballan or Greg Van Avermaet or someone else on our team. I think we have a good team and we aren’t feeling pressure because we know we can be competitive.”
Dental concerns forced the world’s number-one rider in 2011 to abandon the Tirreno-Adriatico WorldTour stage race on Monday. A number of San Remo contenders left the race the same day.
“I am content. Something was wrong, but I did not know what really: they sought but were not found. It’s not a silent and easy situation to live,” said Gilbert.
“Milan-San Remo suits me well. But it is a complicated classic to win. It takes luck, favorable circumstances, talent, but even when I’m not 100 percent, I climb better than many sprinters.”
Gilbert said he was not worried for the rest of the season or his defense at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the last of the spring classics, on April 22.
“I worked hard this winter,” said Gilbert, “and this will eventually pay.”
He further said he regretted “the excessive pressure put on (his) shoulders “by some of the Belgian press.”
Gilbert pointed to Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) as the favorite for La Classicissima on Saturday.
“My feeling is that Cancellara [is the favorite] for a fortnight, in the races he likes: Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.”