In the Race of the Falling Leaves, Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto) left no doubt who was the strongest.
Gilbert bested Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) in a two-up sprint to win his fourth consecutive ProTour race in a row. He has the form of his life and is no doubt feverishly checking the calendar for upcoming races hoping the season isn’t really over.
There must be a race in Dakar, a kermess in Bora-Bora, a tricycle rally in Peru –something, anything. The man has form coming out his eyeballs. Along with Cadel Evan’s dramatic World Championship win in Mendrisio, Switzerland, Gilbert has transformed the under-performing Silence-Lotto team into a late-season powerhouse. Director Sportif Marc Sergeant must be doing the crazy Lake Como champagne dance.
Vuelta revelation Jimmy Hoogerland (Vacansoleil) made a bid for victory with 48k to go. Then World Champion Evans showed off his rainbow jersey with an aggressive attack but the peloton said “don’t think so, buddy.” Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) gritted his teeth (4ever as his t-shirt says) and launched his assault but Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and Ivan Basso (Liquigas) kept things in check.
It was up to Gilbert to destroy the pack and throw buckets of lactic acid in their faces. On the final climb of the day, the San Fermo Della Battaglia, the Belgian rider used the strong work of his teammate Evans as a springboard. He broke clear near the top, with only Sanchez joining the world’s hottest rider — the Man of Super Form.
After three wins in the last few weeks, Gilbert was not burdened with any gnawing self doubt. “I know the quality of my work and it will bring wins.” He’s not reading any books like The Way of the Superior Man — because he is, without question, Mr. October.
Sanchez sat on Gilbert’s wheel and is now wishing he hadn’t taken that comfy seat. Although Gilbert launched early, he easily held off the Olympic Men’s Road Race Champion. Belgian frites and beer all around.
“I was confident,” said Gilbert. “Before the last kilometre I felt we had enough time and it is always easy to do a sprint with two instead of eight or ten.”
Gilbert goes four for four, winning the Giro di Lombardia, Coppa Sabatini, Paris-Tours and the Giro del Piemonte. The man is scorching hot and insists that the season continue. Now, what was the date on that kermess in Bora-Bora?