Belgian pro Philippe Gilbert eyes the new year and future with team BMC Racing. His goal, according to an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport, is to complete his palmarès with cycling's biggest races: the Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and the Tour de France.
"I want a big classic," he said of 2012. "I would like to win San Remo and Flanders, but also a second Liège-Bastogne-Liège."
The Belgian topped the Union Cycliste Internationale's 2011 WorldTour rankings and won several awards for best cyclist and athlete of the year. His season's haul included all three Ardennes Classics - Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne and Liège - a Tour stage and leader's jersey, and San Sebastián.
He has won two of the five monuments, Lombardy and Liège. Besides San Remo and Flanders, he wants to complete the collection with Paris-Roubaix. It is a goal for the future, along with the Tour de France overall.
"Roubaix is very dangerous. For now, I don't want to risk it, but in the future I might find the right moment," Gilbert continued.
"This year at the Tour, I started in yellow and ended strongly. I'd like to try for the overall in the future. I don't know [how I'd make the transformation], I have not yet started to work in that direction."
Gilbert joins BMC Racing for the next three years after racing at Omega Pharma-Lotto from 2009 to 2011. He teams with Tour winner Cadel Evans and Thor Hushovd to make one of the strongest teams for next season.
"Sky, Liquigas and RadioShack," he said, "are also at our level."
His former team manager, Marc Sergeant explained this July that it requires a lot of effort for Gilbert to combine the classics and the Tour in one year.
"He races all the Spring Classics and works for those all winter," Sergeant told Cycling Weekly. "He can't do this every year, though, because it's a long period: he wants to be good in Milan-San Remo and top in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. No other rider can do it, and he wins. It takes a lot of effort."
BMC built its team to support Evans, who wants to race two more editions of the Tour at the top level. It is unclear how Gilbert might also have a chance to race for the classification in the same team. Evans wants Gilbert and Hushovd to mark escapes for stage wins at next year's Tour.
"It's great as a leader," Evans told Cycling Weekly, "you can sort of turn off your mind for one day and it also gives one of your helpers an opportunity."
Gilbert will begin his season on February 5 at the Tour of Qatar, build for the classics in March and April, and return for the Tour de France, June 30 to July 22.
Philippe Gilbert: Rider Profile
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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