Gilbert still dreaming of elusive monument slam
Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) is no longer a spring chicken, but he’s still as ambitious as ever.
Victory in this year’s Tour of Flanders revived the 35-year-old’s dream of winning all five of cycling’s monuments. He’s won three — Flanders, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and Giro di Lombardia (twice) — and believes Milano-Sanremo and Paris-Roubaix are reachable.
“Everyone knows that I dream of winning Sanremo and Roubaix, and completing my palmares with these two monuments,” Gilbert said on the team’s website. “Having them in my sights gives me a fresh motivation.”
The monument “grand slam” is one of cycling’s most prestigious and elusive goals. The five one-day races are among cycling’s longest, most difficult, and most prestigious titles. Winning all of them is not easy. Only three riders — Eddy Merckx, Roger De Vlaeminck, and Rik Van Looy — have managed to pull it off.
Perhaps more than any rider in the contemporary peloton, Gilbert has the skillset to seriously make a challenge. Lombardia and Liège, two races he’s already won, require climbing skills, while Sanremo is a sprinter’s race. Flanders and Roubaix are titled more in favor of brawny cobble-bashers.
Of his remaining two monuments, Gilbert has enjoyed more success in Italy’s Sanremo, twice finishing third. He’s only raced Roubaix once, finishing 52nd in 2007.
A few things could stand in his way. The sprint-friendly Sanremo is the most hotly contested race among the monuments, with literally dozens of riders starting each March with realistic possibilities. The rise of Quick-Step teammate Fernando Gaviria might also complicate things for Gilbert at La Primavera.
And to win Roubaix, Gilbert needs to be at the start line. Even after winning Flanders last year, Gilbert skipped Roubaix to recover in time for a run at the Ardennes classics. A fourth victory at Amstel Gold Race in April confirmed he made the right decision to avoid the ravages of Roubaix.
Few riders today race both the cobblestoned northern classics and the hillier Ardennes races in the same calendar year. The retirement of Roubaix king Tom Boonen could open up more room for Gilbert to finally race Roubaix with more leadership responsibilities.
Gilbert signed a two-year contract extension to stay with Quick-Step through 2019.
“I’ve been very successful in the classics over the years, and if I will win another one before bowing out from the sport, I will be happy,” Gilbert said. “If not, I’ll just take things as they come. Even if I don’t win all the monuments, I want to know that I tried and when the time will come, to quit cycling without any regrets.”