Belgian classics powerhouse Philippe Gilbert will rest up instead of racing the Tour of Flanders this weekend in the hope of hitting fresh form at the up-coming Ardennes classics. No other rider currently competing has had as much success in the big one-day races as the 38-year-old, who pulled out mid-race from the two classics he competed in last week.
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“I’m lacking both mental and physical freshness,” said Gilbert, a three-time Belgian ‘Sportsman of the Year’.
“I just need a rest because I’m not feeling right,” said the former world champion and winner of 22 classics races.
Gilbert is on a career quest he calls ‘the drive for five’, to win all five races known as monuments, the only one still eluding him is the Milan-San Remo, which he contested two weekends ago with no real panache.
“It hasn’t been going right for a few weeks now,” Gilbert said. “I may have over-trained. So I’ll take five days off the bike altogether and then get back into it gently,” he said.
“The aim is to be fresh and ready to play a role at the business end of a race, that’s why I’m in the sport.”
Gilbert may be back in time for Paris-Roubaix in two weeks, which he won the last time it was staged in 2019.
Failing that, he certainly hopes to be in the frame by mid-April when the Ardennes classics begin.
“It’s too early to say, but I’d like to be racing then at 100 percent,” said Gilbert who has won the Amstel Gold four times and the epic Liege-Bastogne-Liege once.
Only three men have won all five monuments, all of them Belgians with Rik Van Looy, the great Eddy Merckx and Roger De Vlaeminck, who retired in 1979.
The monuments are all ultra-long one-day races and are comprised of the 300km-long Milan-San Remo, the cobbled Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix’s so called ‘Hell of the North’ with its old cobbled mining roads, Liege-Bastogne-Liege in the wooded Ardennes hills and the so called ‘Autumn classic’ the Tour of Lombardy.
RBA/AFP Photos: Bettini
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