Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) ‘owned’ the Ardennes Classics in 2011 and gave every indication that he intends to do so again by winning this year’s Brabantse Pijl.
A Wallonian, Gilbert is as revered in the largely French-speaking southern region of Belgium as the king of the cobbles, Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), is in Flanders.
The 2012-13 world road race champion suffered a largely barren campaign in the rainbow stripes, saved only by a stage victory at the Vuelta a Espana.
A comparison of performances at Brabantse Pijl between this year and last might tell its own story, however. Twelve months ago, Gilbert crossed the line second Overijse. This year, he went one better, winning the Brabant Arrow for the first time since, you guessed it, 2011.
Is Fast Phil going back to the future? Legions of fans will hope so, though there will be plenty of star riders who will hope to prevent him from emulating his clean sweep of the hilly Classics three years ago.
Gilbert has put them all on notice at Brabantse Pijl. Relive how he got his 2014 Ardennes campaign off to the perfect start through the lens of UCI WorldTour photographer, Stefano Sirotti.