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by Neal Rogers
June 23, 2017
In today’s Daily News Digest: UCI rule changes for 2018 include eight-man teams for Grand Tours, maximum peloton size of 176 riders; Team Sky announces Tour de France team intent on bringing Froome a fourth title; Froome: ‘This year’s Tour route doesn’t necessarily suit me’; BMC Racing announces Tour de France roster built around Richie Porte as sole leader; After runner-up finish at Giro d’Italia, Quintana ready to take on Froome at Tour de France; Gilbert seeking a third Belgian national road title in Antwerp; Tour de France champion Greg LeMond signs huge carbon fibre deal with Deakin University; Team Rwanda invited to Colorado Classic; Research delves into which nations hold overall best athletic prowess across all sports; Man rides 1,400 miles to hear deceased daughter’s heartbeat on Father’s Day
On Sunday, Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) will be on the prowl for a third Belgian Road Race Champion jersey on the route laid out in Antwerp, which is hosting the competition for the first time in 11 years.
“Wearing this jersey has been awesome,” said Gilbert. “Up to now, 2017 has been an extraordinary year for me. Winning two Classics as prestigious as De Ronde van Vlaanderen and Amstel Gold Race, with my country’s colours on my back, was a unique experience. These are important moments in the career of a rider, especially because winning with such a special jersey on your shoulders is never simple. The Belgian champion’s jersey is one of the symbols of international cycling. Like Italy, France or Spain, Belgium is among the countries where cycling has its roots, where the bicycle is part of the culture. If you page through the Golden Book of Belgian Championships you get a sense of the quality of the race.”
Gilbert, who is currently fifth in the UCI World Tour rankings, reflected on his condition, which he most recently showcased at Tour de Suisse. “I felt good there. The route was challenging but not particularly hard. The victory on the first stage was the icing on the cake. It was a hard day on the bike and the weather was hot, so winning there was important.”
The main obstacles of the 17km circuit which will be covered 14 times by the riders at the nationals are two cobbled stretches, of 1000 and 400 meters, respectively. “The route for Sunday’s championships is a different story. It’s basically all flat, so on paper it’s not very well-suited to my skills. We have a strong team and perhaps we can try and come up with something, especially as the pavé can spice up the race. The goal is to try and keep the jersey within the team. When you’re on the starting line for a race there is always a chance of winning.
“Tactically it will also be a complicated race; there could even be an immediate breakaway group with one rider from each team. It has happened before,” Gilbert said. “It will be important to be patient and take on the race intelligently as a team. Often in the past, everything seemed finished already mid-race, but then in the final, things changed in the blink of an eye. It is an unpredictable race and this is why it’s so fascinating. My fans will also be there; they will come well-organized to follow the race and this is another reason to do well.”