Belgian Philippe Gilbert is smiling a lot ahead of the 2010 World Championships this week, and he has good reason. His country has a posh base in Torquay, Australia, with views of the Southern Ocean and to the north in Geelong, up the B100 road, he knows a favourable circuit waits.
“What I like is the finish, it is something for me,” Gilbert said this morning. “I don’t have to attack and finish solo, I will have a chance from of a small group. That gives me more confidence and takes some pressure of my shoulders.”
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Gilbert travelled up the B100 to preview the 15.9-kilometre circuit for the first time on Friday. He rode the longer hill up to the ridge over looking the Geelong city and the descent to the new, temporary bridge that leads to the second shorter hill.
“Normally you would start that second hill going fast, but with the deviation, the speeds will slow down.”
The second climb only leaves 5.9 kilometres to the city centre, to a right hand turn and the rise to the finish line. Repeated 11 times, Gilbert feels that riders like himself and Filippo Pozzato are favoured, not sprints like Mark Cavendish.
To prepare, Gilbert raced the Vuelta a España three-week stage race in Spain – where he won two stages – and simulated the Worlds circuit at home in Belgium with the help of Belgium’s sports director, Carlo Bomans.
He arrived in Australia on Thursday and has been training since. As with the British team, the Gilbert and the Belgian team skipped yesterday’s Herald Sun Classic race. Italy’s Filippo Pozzato won it and Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara finished fourth.
“I don’t really need it [to race] anymore, I have done a lot of training. I rode 200 kilometres today in training and I will complete another big ride on Wednesday, 150 kilometres with the group and 50 to 60 kilometres behind the car.
“I sent Filippo [Pozzato] a SMS after the race to say, ‘Now, it is up to your team to control the race on Sunday, instead of mine.’ I know the game, though, it is physiological. They want to put the pressure on us and we want to put it on them.”
The physiological warfare will continue to Sunday when the elite men race for the world title. The World Championships kick off on Wednesday with the men’s Under 23 and women’s time trial races.