I’m following the progress of three Classics specialists in 2012: BMC’s Philippe Gilbert, the top-ranked rider in the world last year, Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s former world champion and Tour de France green jersey winner Tom Boonen, and Garmin-Barracuda’s Koldo Fernandez. Here’s a quick summary of what they’ve achieved (or haven’t) in the past couple of months.
Philippe Gilbert (BMC)
Results: 6th at Amstel Gold Race. 3rd at La Flèche Wallonne. 16th at Liège–Bastogne–Liège. 7th at Tour of Belgium.
WorldTour ranking: 40th, 72pts.
Had you been told at the start of the season that Philippe Gilbert would be down in a lowly 40th in the UCI rankings after the Ardennes Classics, you wouldn’t have believed it. He had been billed as favourite for the three races, after doing the famous triple last year.
But poor showings in the big Classics left fellow Gilbert fans worrying. And so it proved. Our concerns were justified with a sixth place at the Amstel Gold Race, although it seemed like he could make amends at the last of the three races – Liège-Bastogne-Liège – after taking third at the midweek Flèche Wallonne.
However, it wasn’t to be, as he finished in 16th place. He has since gone on to finish seventh at his native Tour of Belgium, wearing the tricolore on his back – a jersey he will hope to defend at the national championships in Geel on Sunday.
Gilbert has been named in BMC’s Tour de France team, and will work to help team leader Cadel Evans defend the maillot jaune. But, having come so close to winning the green jersey at last year’s race, we could well see him attempting to pick up a few points along the way.
However, Gilbert’s principal target coming up is the Olympic road race in London, as he goes for gold and attempts to banish the demons which have plagued his season to date.
Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step)
Results: 2nd in stage 8, 3rd in stage 3 and 4th in stage 4 of Tour of California.
WorldTour ranking: 2nd, 366 points.
One man who will be gunning to snatch the Belgian stripes off Philippe Gilbert this weekend is Tom Boonen, in a bid to pick up where he left off in his spectacularly successful spring campaign.
After winning both Paris-Roubaix and the Ronde Van Vlaanderen, it is little surprise that he has quietened somewhat, failing to add any points to his WorldTour ranking since our last rider update. It is testament to the brilliant way that he started the season that he has only dropped to second, knocked off top spot by Joaquim Rodriguez.
He returned to racing at the recent Tour of California, taking second place on stage eight of the American race. Speaking ahead of this weekend’s Belgian national championships, Boonen has warned:
It’s the first time that I’ll race a Belgian championship near my home. While I’m out training, everybody is encouraging me, even more than for the Tour of Flanders. I’ve really made a goal of the Belgian championship. People might say, “it’s just a Belgian title” but I think it’s a very nice prize. I’ve done all I can to be good for it. I’ve been training hard in the last few weeks.
Boonen won’t ride the Tour de France this July, hoping to further frustrate the current King of Belgium™ at the London Olympics.
Koldo Fernandez (Garmin-Barracuda)
Results: 8th in stage 3 and 7th in stage 5 of Bayern Rundfahrt.
WorldTour ranking: Not ranked.
Koldo has spent most of his season working tirelessly for other members of his team, but has managed to get himself a couple of impressive showings in the Bayern Rundfahrt sprints (Tour of Bavaria) for his palmarès.
He finished eighth and seventh on stages three and five respectively, and rode the Critérium du Dauphiné before retiring on stage six.
Previous updates: April 12th, February 23rd
Rider profiles: Philippe Gilbert, Tom Boonen, Koldo Fernandez
Websites: Philippe Gilbert, Tom Boonen, Koldo Fernandez
Twitter: @Phil_Gilbert1, @tomboonen (inactive)