In the spring of 2010, Fabian Cancellara went on a rampage, taking wins in some of the most prestigious one day classics. It was the way he did it though that resonated, as the rest of the peloton just looked a gear slower than the Swiss machine. From Tom Boonen to Filippo Pozzato to Thor Hushovd, no one seemed able to stay with Cancellara went it counted.
Sunday, March 6, 2011
As the season went on though, it was a different name who began to come to the front of races and dominate: Philippe Gilbert. Gilbert, though overshadowed by Tom Boonen in his home country, has fast become the most dominant one day rider in the pro peloton. After winning his second consecutive Giro di Lombardia last fall, Gilbert has assumed the role of attacker and destroyer in almost every race he contests.
Most intriguing about Gilbert is his remarkable versatility. While a rider like Cancellara has little hope in hilly races like La Fleche Wallonne or Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Gilbert is considered a protagonist when the Mur or La Doyenne are discussed. Even Milan-San Remo is well within Gilbert's capability. Of all the riders currently racing in cycling, it is Gilbert who stands the best chance of winning all five cycling monuments. Still, he only has one of the five on his palmares thus far, so he still has a lot of work to do.
At 28 years old, Gilbert is in the prime of his career. He'll have about six more season at the top of his game to add additional races to his resume, but he has given himself a very nice head start thus far. Having won this past weekend's Strade Bianchi classic in Italy, Gilbert looks primed for the huge races that are upcoming, including Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
2011 has already been a successful season for Gilbert with his win at the Strade Bianchi. With less pressure heading into the bigger races, expect him to be as aggressive as ever as he tries to add another monument in the coming weeks. His form looks good enough for Milan-San Remo, and with the experience he already has in La Primevera, he should be in the top three when favorites are discussed.
Later in the year Gilbert will target the Tour of Flanders before switching up for a run at one of the three hilly classics. He has already won the Amstel Gold Race, so expect him to put everything into winning Liege-Bastogne-Liege this year. If the weather is poor in any classic then Gilbert's chances get even better, but he can do equally well in sunshine as he can in wet conditions.
Watching Philippe Gilbert thus far in 2011 bodes poorly for his competition. He has been at the front of just about every race he has contested thus far, and with complete support from his Silece-Lotto team the sky is the limit for cycling's one day king.