Philippe Gilbert stays in the big ring for the Cauberg

This year’s World Championships finished just over the top of the Cauberg, the hill used at the end of The Amstel Gold Race. Philippe Gilbert won that race in 2010 and 2011. He also won the World Championships today. Apparently, he didn’t drop out of the big ring at the finish. The burning in his thighs was so intense that Belgium’s winter isn’t expected until February.

The profile of the Cauberg is not dissimilar to Gun Hill. It’s a mile long, shallow at first, steepens to 11 per cent in the middle and then shallows out again, finishing with a long drag at 1.3 per cent. My experience of Gun Hill is that the steep bit isn’t the worst bit – it’s the long drag afterwards. Your strength fades as the gradient drops and you find you can’t accelerate, so you’re committed to 11 per cent incline speed. For me, that’s slow. For Phil Gilbert, it’s sickeningly quick.

Our Phil specialises in this kind of thing. Jens Voigt may be famous for saying ‘shut up legs‘ but Gilbert doesn’t even hear his legs in the first place. He continues sprinting long after the point at which the rest of us feel that searing, burning sensation in our thighs and can’t continue. He will not even acknowledge the pain, let alone respond to it.

I sometimes think I could live without my big chain ring. It hadn’t really occurred to me that it could be used for climbing hills that hit 11 per cent. Imagine what that feels like. Now imagine you’ve got to carry on sprinting. Well ridden, Phil.