Philippe Gilbert said hanging up his cleats after breaking his kneecap in a crash this summer never entered his mind.
BEIHAI, China (VN) — Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) says quitting was not an option for him this summer when he broke his kneecap in the Tour de France.
The Belgian star instead returned two months later and won his first race, the GP d’Isbergues. He now ends his season in the south of China at the Tour of Guangxi.
“Why should I think about quitting? When you like your job, there’s no reason to stop,” Gilbert told VeloNews.
“When you think it’s time to do something different, then it’s just time to stop. For me, the time is not there yet. I still enjoy it. I like to ride my bike and race.”
Gilbert crashed on a descent in the Tour’s stage 16. He finished the stage but had to abandon that night. It appeared that the 36-year-old former world champion and Tour of Flanders winner would not return until 2019, if at all.
“Crashes happen all over the year, sometimes you have less luck when you break a bone, and that was my case,” he added. “I was working hard to come back and I’m happy to be racing again.”
Gilbert showed in his fight to return that same grit that led to his many wins. And when he did pin on a number again at d’Isbergues, he rode clear.
“You always dream of a comeback like that, it’s hard to accomplish it, but I did it, and I’m glad that I did it. It was a good way to be racing again. I was happy about it,” said Gilbert.
“It’s never the same exactly, I lost something, but I’m going to work a lot this winter to get back next season and hopefully I can find the same shape again.”
Gilbert won all three Ardennes classics in the same season, 2011. He won the world championship in 2012 on the Cauberg. He rode solo to win Flanders in 2017. And this year, even though winning only once, he added to Quick-Step’s massive victory haul of 71.
“There are many races I still want to win. And some I want to win for a second or third time, some races are really nice. I will want to give it a try and do my best,” Gilbert continued.
“We had a strong collective this year, a lot of time situations where you protect your teammate who was going for the win, and sometimes second or third was the best I could do because the team was winning in front of me. That’s the game.
“It’s still a sport where team spirit is still really important and it plays a role in the tactics. Sometimes you’re the guy protected and racing for the win, sometimes you have to protect others. That’s cycling.”
Gilbert skipped the recent world championships in Innsbruck, but commentated on it for French television. He saw one of his rivals, 38-year-old Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, finally win the title.
“Valverde is a good winner because I think it was his seventh podium, that’s really impressive,” added Gilbert. “He’s been there for many years, and he’s survived everything. I think he deserved this one.”