Is Philippe Gilbert out of gravy?

Gilbert. Sagan victim?

Gilbert. Sagan victim?

Pro bike racer Lee Rodgers wrote two obituaries today and they were major ones, fallen hero variety, goodbyes to big stars.

Writing his column for pezcycling, Rodgers, who rode both Qatar and Dubai, stated his feeling that both Thor Hushovd and Philippe Gilbert were now on the downside of their careers.

Hushovd has had two disappointing seasons in a row and has hit the ripe old age of 36. Still, the Norwegian is claiming he has the legs to get a big win this season. Rodgers gave him the thumbs down with this write-off: “can’t seem to fight his way out of a paper bag these days.”

Ouch!

Sounds like Rodgers thinks that BMC should just load the old Viking’s body on the ship and set it afire. It ain’t easy being ancient in the pro peloton — no country for old men who pedal slow.

On the other hand, Rodger’s speculation about Gilbert was more surprising. The quote that hit the hardest — “I fear his gravy days are over.” Basically, Rodgers believes that Gilbert isn’t suffering from old age and declining skills but rather the emergence of a rival who will beat him 9 times out of 10.

That would be Fastvakian Peter Sagan.

We have to admire Rodgers for his candor and willingness to stake out an opinion. On the subject of Gilbert versus Sagan, Rodgers pulls no punches — “will beat Gilbert, on form, every day of the week I reckon.” Gilbert may be surprised by the news of his early demise but there’s no question Sagan is a huge problem to overcome.

One competitive  advantage for Gilbert that Rodgers didn’t mention was the positive influence of new team manager Allan Peiper. Taking the place of the lackadaisical John Lelangue, Peiper has brought new enthusiasm to the BMC squad and with the season barely a month old, the wins are already coming.

Cadel Evans took out a stage in the Tour Down Under, Taylor Phinney got a time trial win and the overall in Dubai and Steve Cummings just nailed the top podium position in the  Tour Méditerranéen. As Peiper made clear to his riders, it’s time to “step up or step out.”

Peiper has set well-defined expectations for every rider from Evans, Phinney and van Garderen on down. Gilbert will benefit from a more cohesive and aggressive team when he heads to the Ardennes classics. Sagan has all the talent in the world but a newly motivated — and better trained — Gilbert will be a force. We expect a big win for Gilbert this season no matter what Rodgers thinks of the Belgian’s chances.

 

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