WEVELGEM, Belgium (VN) — Form comes and goes, changing with the season. It can desert even the most seasoned of riders, and its homecoming is fickle, if it ever returns at all.
Behold last year for 2010 world champion Thor Hushovd, or the bulk of this season for reigning world champ Philippe Gilbert.
The two have had a slower start in the cobbled classics than either would like, but BMC director sportif Fabio Baldato said the team isn’t sweating their form.
“It’s early, but this spring, the situation, the weather, the cold. …” he said. “We saw Thor already had a good moment at Tirreno. It’s difficult … because you saw the performance. The weather, the cold, can really change a lot. It’s not a normal spring season. It’s been really hard.”
Indeed, it has been a difficult opening to the spring classics, which have felt more like winter classics.
Milano-Sanremo was a frigid affair with snows cutting out two climbs, the Passo del Turchino and Le Manie, forcing an eventual restart for a peloton iced over.
E3 Harelbeke was better only because it was dry, though the temperatures were below 40 degrees most of the day.
Ghent-Wevelgem was shortened the day before the race to keep the riders out of the cold and in the team buses for about 45km of flat roads they normally would have raced.
As for Gilbert, the world champion rode near the front on Sunday at times and has downplayed his chances at the cobbled classics, indicating his best may be yet to come in the Ardennes races, which he swept in 2011.
He attacked with 70km to the line Sunday, and tested his legs again as Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) crashed behind him. Boonen later abandoned, and Gilbert finished in 42nd place. Hushovd came in 17th, one spot ahead of Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma).
“Phil is confident. We believe in him when he says, ‘I’m pretty good, I’m quiet,’” Baldato said. “And we’ll look for him for Flanders. For sure, he’s the world champion, we give all the support we can to him in a race.”