Philippe Gilbert’s fractured finger knocks him out of this weekend’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He’s out of contract at the end of this season. And we’re guessing he’s out of favor at BMC after several years of results that might best be described as disappointing.
Out with Gilbert, once an unstoppable force in the Ardennes Classics, and in with the kid Joey Rosskopf, who last year rode for the Hincapie Sportswear development team. BMC likes Rosskopf, who has an athletic upside, a small salary and ten working fingers. Gilbert, not so much.
We can’t escape the feeling that BMC has grown tired of Gilbert — and Gilbert of BMC. We could be totally wrong and this is pure conjecture, not being best friends with BMC Performance Manager Allan Peiper. When he took over the team from the laissez-faire John Lelangue, Peiper wasn’t overly impressed by Gilbert’s training methods.
Here’s what Peiper told Cyclingcips back in 2013: “Gilbert is an old school cyclist. He has never even had a trainer before but the cycling world is changing.” The intimation was that Gilbert would change his training and right away — with Peiper around, the Belgian wasn’t going to just ride on his reputation.
And who can forget Gilbert’s arrival at BMC back in late 2011? Fresh off his magnificent, all-universe season, he got things off to a negative start with the takedown of a teammate. Here’s his famous alpha dog quote about the possibility of sharing leadership with new teammate Greg Van Avermaet. “Greg has potential, but he has to be realistic. In the finale of Liege, he only took one turn at the front, and then he was dropped and lost a minute. If he was really strong, he would have gone all the way to the finish. He showed his limits, and he who shows his limits can’t lay claim to being a leader at BMC.”
Five years on, and despite the crushing disappoint of breaking his collarbone right before this years’s Paris-Roubaix, it’s Van Avermaet that has the results, the lead role and trust at BMC. His “limits” have expended significantly while Gilbert seems mired in a funk of injuries, illness and bad luck — and perhaps those old school habits.
Piper made it clear when he arrived that all BMC riders — from stars to domestiques — would have to elevate their performances. His summary statement was “step up or step out.”
Gilbert is out of Liège-Bastogne-Liège and we assume out at BMC in 2017. What’s his next step?