ADELAIDE, Australia (VN) – World champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) will race the Amgen Tour of California this year, but is uncertain to start the Tour de France.
Gilbert told VeloNews that a first-ever appearance at the Tour of California would be part of an ambitious calendar in his rainbow-jersey season.
“I have never been to the USA before, so I am looking forward to racing in America,” Gilbert said. “I do not know about the Tour. I want to be good for the spring classics and the world championships. There are others on the team who can do well in the Tour.”
The Belgian is kick-starting his rainbow season in Australia and escaped serious injury after crashing on a technical descent off the Corkscrew climb about 6km from the finish line in Wednesday’s second stage at the Santos Tour Down Under.
“I crashed with 30 or 40 guys. They were lying there right on the corner. We just hit them. It was pretty impressive. I just had time to go to the left of the road and another group came behind us,” Gilbert said. “When Geraint [Thomas, stage winner,] attacked, I was already at my maximum and it was still a long way to the top. I tried to stay on the wheel, but I did not have the condition. I finished three minutes behind, so the GC is over.”
Gilbert was not seriously injured and was expected to start Thursday’s third stage.
After Australia, Gilbert is slated to race the Tour of Oman, Milan-San Remo, Paris-Nice, the Ronde van Vlaanderen, the Ardennes classics, and the Tour of California. Later in the season, another start at the Vuelta a España will likely be on the schedule ahead of the world championships.
With BMC Racing rallying around Cadel Evans and Tejay van Garderen, Gilbert said he’s not sure he will race the Tour.
“Cadel and Tejay need climbers who can help them in the high mountains. I am a rider like Quinziato or Burghardt, so there are many of us who can do that,” Gilbert said. “Plus, it would be difficult to peak again after the Ardennes for the Tour and then again for the worlds. We are not sure.”
Gilbert’s top goals include blazing a path across the spring classics before taking aim at defending his world title on a hilly course in Florence, Italy.
Gilbert will inspect the course upon his return to Europe after the Tour Down Under, but he knows it’s a route perfectly suited for him.
“Winning the world title was always a dream. To win again would be more than a dream,” Gilbert. “First, I want to be in top shape for the classics. Those are the races that are motivating me now.”
When asked if he could win Milan-San Remo, the Ronde van Vlaanderen, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège while wearing the rainbow jersey, Gilbert nodded his head.
“Like Merckx,” he said with a smile.
“San Remo is probably the hardest race to win because there are 20-30 guys who can win. Flanders there are 10 who can win, but it’s still a long way to Liège, so I will not be in top shape,” he said. “And Liège, only four or five can win it.”
Gilbert is dedicated to making sure he can be among those select riders.