There won’t be an Ardennes sweep repeat for Philippe Gilbert this year.
The red-hot Belgian, fresh off his thrilling victory Sunday at the Amstel Gold Race, will be sidelined for at least a week due to a kidney injury sustained in a crash. That means the on-form Gilbert, who barnstormed to victory at Ronde van Vlaanderen earlier this month, won’t be racing Flèche Wallonne or Liège-Bastogne-Liège, races he swept in 2011.
“When I crashed [Sunday], I felt pain, but once I remounted and continued the race things became better and better and the pain disappeared,” Gilbert said in a Quick-Step Floors release. “Unfortunately, after the finish, the lower back pain returned, so together with the team doctor I decided to go to the hospital for a check-up. Fortunately, it’s nothing serious, and if everything goes well, in a week I will start training again.”
That’s a blow for the 34-year-old who’s been on fire this spring in his dramatic return to the cobblestone classics. On Sunday, Gilbert was flying high, out-foxing Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) to win Amstel Gold Race for a fourth time. The victory made him just the third cyclist to win Amstel Gold and Ronde van Vlaanderen in the same season.
Gilbert would have entered this week’s Ardennes races as one of the favorites, but a biting back pain prompted him to visit the hospital following Sunday’s podium ceremony and press conference.
Gilbert was caught up in a crash earlier in the race. Doctors discovered what was described as a “minor tear” in his right kidney. No surgery is necessary, but doctors ordered “complete recovery” for at least a week. That means no Ardennes.
Gilbert was philosophical about the setback in light of his best spring campaign since 2011, when he won four straight races in the so-called “Ardennes Week,” in a sweep that included Brabantse Pijl, Amstel Gold, Flèche, and Liège.
“It’s one of my best years and looking behind on what I achieved makes me very happy,” said Gilbert, who will likely race the Giro d’Italia next. “To be competitive in both the cobbled and the Ardennes classics, and to help the team be the best in the world brings me a lot of satisfaction. It’s sad I won’t be there for the remaining races of this week because I was in great condition.”
Gilbert’s absence will be a blow for Quick-Step, which also lost the services of Julian Alaphilippe, who is out with a knee injury, for the Ardennes.
Leading the team will be former winner Dan Martin and Gianluca Brambilla, who enjoyed a breakout season last year with stage wins in the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España.