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Gilbert ready for new adventure alongside Boonen

The Belgians will ride together this season — at least for a few races, as Boonen will retire after Paris-Roubaix.

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Philippe Gilbert says he’s ready for his “new adventure” alongside compatriot Tom Boonen as the two Belgian superstars will ride together under Quick-Step Floors colors in 2017.

Or at least for a few months. Boonen reconfirmed that he will retire at Paris-Roubaix, meaning Gilbert and Boonen will line up in the same race in the same jersey in just a few races at best.

In what’s one of the blockbuster transfers into the 2017 season, the two Belgian superstars are under the same roof for the first time. Their respective schedules have yet to be finalized, but it’s likely both will race the Tour of Flanders together.

“Riding with Tom is something special,” Gilbert said in a team video. “We rode some world championships together. I was there when he was world champion, and he was there when I was world champion, so we already have something in common. … He is like when you see him on TV. There is nothing fake. He is always laughing, always an optimist. I am convinced it is a good combination.”

After five seasons with BMC Racing, Gilbert returns to a Belgian team with eyes on the spring classics. Now 34, Gilbert’s last major wins came at the 2014 Amstel Gold Race and two stages at the 2015 Giro d’Italia, but he’s managed to scoop up a few wins each season, though his last monument victory came during his sweep of the Ardennes classics in 2011, capped by Liège-Bastogne-Liège. A world champion the following season, Gilbert is hopeful the change of scenery will help.

“My goal is always to win a big classic,” he said. “Last year, I was not able because I had a finger broken at a bad moment, and I lost my chances. The last time was with Amstel Gold. Now it’s time to win again.”

Gilbert’s arrival will give the Quick-Step franchise added firepower in the Ardennes classics. With Dan Martin and Julian Alaphilippe, Quick-Step will be the team to beat not only on the pavé, but also over the hilly terrain of eastern Belgium.

“I was always competing against Quick-Step, it was always a fight. Always quality riders, and always aggressive. They win with a certain style, and I hope this will be the case again in 2017,” he said. “It’s a great honor to be with this team. It was easy to get into the group because I know most of the riders and staff. I already feel like part of the team.”