Name: Philippe Gilbert
Team: BMC Racing
Role: Classics specialist/Puncheur
2011 WorldTour ranking: 1
- UCI World Tour: 1st
- Velo d’Or winner
- Tour de France: won stage 1, 2nd in stage 5, 2nd in stage 8, 1 day in the yellow jersey, 3rd in points classification
- Strade Bianche: 1st
- Tirreno-Adriatico: won stage 5, 9th overall
- Milan-San Remo: 3rd
- Amstel Gold: 1st
- Fleche Wallonne: 1st
- Liege-Bastogne-Liege: 1st
- Tour of Belgium: won stage 4, 1st overall
- National Road Race Champion
- National Time Trial Champion
- Clasica San Sebastian: 1st
- Eneco Tour: won stage 3, 2nd overall
- Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec: 1st
Why I like him:
I’ve already waffled on elsewhere [Belgian waffle? – Ed] on this site about how I love the classics and have a soft spot for Belgian riders – especially those sporting the national champion’s tricolour. Philippe Gilbert, therefore, is the perfect combination. From passion to panache and aggression to ability, the Belgian champ oozes likeability.
The only things in cycling longer than the list of achievements which Gilbert managed in 2011 are the faces of the Omega Pharma-Quickstep team management who have lost him to BMC for 2012. If he can can find such form as he showed last season, he’s well on his way to becoming an all-time great.
It is not only the fact that he wins so many races (he’s statistically the best rider in the world at the moment), but the way he wins them which makes him so likeable. Very rarely can you call a Gilbert victory ‘boring’, thanks to his sheer bravery and extraordinary aggressiveness on the bike.
When he launches one of his punchy attacks, it’s usually perfectly timed and terminal for anyone else with hopes of winning the race. It’s in many ways like how Alberto Contador wins his stages, only in the classics rather than the major stage races.
The Belgian’s hopes and ambitions also add to the intrigue and excitement about what he may achieve. Having mastered the Ardennes classics – becoming only the second man to do the ‘triple’ last year, after Davide Rebellin in 2004 – he has now set his sights on Paris-Roubaix and even the Tour de France. He has also stated his desire to go for gold at the London Olympics in the summer, and who’d bet against him?
I’m not a great BMC fan, so I was quite disappointed when Gilbert made the move across to the American outfit for 2012, not least because of potential friction over team leaders in the classics – Thor Hushovd in particular. But undeterred, I look forward to following him and cheering him along all the way. After all, who knows what he may achieve?
Where to see him in 2012:
Spring Classics, Tour de France, London Olympics (road race), World Championships.
Watch out for regular updates tracking Philippe Gilbert’s 2012 season over the coming months.