Philippe Gilbert has not had an ideal run-up to his beloved Ardennes classics. An altercation with a driver, while the Belgian was out training Friday, left him with a broken finger. He withdrew from Wednesday’s Brabantse Pijl, and now the man who reportedly attacked Gilbert claims the BMC rider used an illegal pepper spray in the Friday fight.
The driver told RTL.be that BMC’s initial statement on the incident was wrong, and that Gilbert hit him and his passenger and used the pepper spray, which is illegal in Belgium, where they were riding, near Liège.
Gilbert responded, telling RTBF television, “This is why I left Belgium eight years ago. This product is sold freely in France. I have it because I’ve already been attacked several times in training. A cyclist is absolutely defenseless. I have witnessed scenes of violence that are recurring, Sadly.”
However, despite the controversy and a broken finger, Gilbert will race Sunday’s classic, which he’s won three times.
“I’ve had a disrupted start to the season with illness and injury so I hope to put all of this behind me and be at the front of the race on Sunday,” he added. “I have been back on the bike in the last couple of days and put in a long session today, so I’m confident that I’ll be in a good shape to race.”