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Philippe Gilbert Wants Third "Volk"

Green-bike_medium Philippe Gilbert has won the Belgian season opener Omloop het Volk twice, and last season he won his first major classic at Paris-Tours. During the off-season, the 26 year old left his long-time team, Français des Jeux, and signed with classics powerhouse Silence-Lotto. He also moved from his native Belgium to Monaco. But the changes have not altered his focus. As he put it in a recent interview with La Dernière Heure, "The task in cycling remains the same: to ride the bike. And win races."

Gilbert is hoping to begin this season with a third win at the race he still calls "het Volk." "It is sad to have changed the name," he said. Though many people did not ever see the newspaper "het Volk," the name "represented something in the world of cycling," explained Gilbert. "If I win it again, it will remain in my mind as a third success at the Volk." Gilbert will also ride Milano-San Remo during the early season.

His main goal for the Spring is the Ardennes classics, and he will not ride the Ronde van Vlaanderen as in previous years. Arriving in the Ardennes with fresher legs than in the past, he hopes to find success at Amstel Gold, Flèche-Wallone, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. "Everyone tells me that the Amstel Gold Race is without doubt the classic of that period that suits me the best." He is cautious about his chances, though, admitting that "it is hard to tell, because I always suffer there in the last 20 kilometers." Gilbert has not figured prominently in the Ardennes in recent seasons, and his highest previous finish in the Ardennes came in 2007 with a 16th place at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The lighter early season schedule should improve his chances. Certainly, his attacking style is well-suited to the Ardennes races.

The transfer to Silence-Lotto has meant a change in Gilbert's team role. At Français des Jeux, he rode as the sole team leader, which offered many opportunities to race to win, but also a responsibility to carry the team. It also meant a heavy racing schedule. At Silence-Lotto, he shares leadership with Leif Hoste and Thomas Dekker, among others. "I want to have a protected role at certain races," he confirmed. But he does not mind playing a supporting role. "If it is necessary to ride for someone else, I will do it without any problem," said Gilbert.

"My victory at Paris-Tours changed absolutely nothing for me, because a career does not stop there," he concluded. With a new team and new objectives, Gilbert seems unlikely to stop winning races. Will he find success in the Ardennes? We'll find out soon enough.

Interview by Julien Gillebert, La Dernière Heure. Translated by Gav.