Amstel Gold winner Philippe Gilbert has brushed off a disappointing 10th-placed finish at Fleche Wallonne, insisting he is focused on Sunday’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
The 31-year-old Belgian cyclist was the clear favourite for Wednesday’s race having blitzed the opposition in Sunday’s Amstel event, where he finished five seconds clear of second-placed Jelle Vanendert despite letting up as he celebrated his win before crossing the line.
He was caught in a bad position at the foot of the final Mur de Huy climb at the Fleche Wallonne and was unable to work his way through the field, ending up 10th, 15sec behind winner Alejandro Valverde.
But Gilbert said it meant little, confirming his assertion before the second of the three ‘Ardennes Classics’ that it was “just a midweek race” and that his true objective was victory in Liege, the fourth of five ‘Monument’ races this year.
“It went really fast. It was a very difficult race that went fast right from the off,” said the BMC rider.
“I’m not panicking, I had good legs and what counts for me is Sunday: Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
“Not winning (on Wednesday) isn’t such a bad thing. It will relieve some of the pressure because I showed some limits, whereas Valverde showed he’s really very strong.”
That might be wishful thinking from Gilbert as all the talk following the Fleche race was about a battle between him and Valverde in Liege.
But the Spaniard, who turns 34 on Friday, insists there will be others in the mix as well.
“At Amstel, it was clear that Gilbert was very difficult to beat, if not impossible and behind (Valverde finished fourth) we weren’t able to follow him,” said the two-time winner of both Fleche and Liege.
“But every race is different. For example, this time Gilbert started aiming to win but he didn’t manage it and I won.
“Now we’ll see at Liege-Bastogne-Liege, which is a very beautiful and tough race; it’s very demanding. I like it a lot.”