Philippe Gilbert, the 2012 world road race champion, will return to Lotto-Soudal next season on a three-year contract, the team announced on Monday.
Gilbert, 38, who is in his third season at another Belgian team, Deceuninck-Quick-Step, made his mark in his first spell at Lotto from 2009 to 2011. The Belgian, who won Paris-Roubaix earlier this year, said on the team’s website that the length of the contract helped persuade him.
“I still wanted to race, without any doubt,” he said. “When I learned that I could [extend] at my current team for only one year, it was clear to me that I wanted to change. The clearest interest and project was the one of Lotto-Soudal. Of course, I know the team, a lot of riders and staff are no strangers to me, I know the spirit, and I will again be part of a Belgian project.”
Gilbert reached the world No.1 ranking with Lotto in 2011. That year he won Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Amstel Gold Race, La Flèche Wallonne, Giro di Lombardia, the first stage of the Tour de France, and Clásica San Sebastián.
At Lotto-Soudal, one-day races and the big classics will remain his primary objective.
“The past few years, I watched the team from outside and I think they maybe lacked a real leader in those races,” Gilbert said. “I want to try to lift the team to a higher level, by performing myself but also by making other riders better. It gives me just as much pleasure if they would show themselves important or if they would be able to win.”
Lotto-Soudal team manager Marc Sargeant, who also oversaw Gilbert’s first stint at the team, said the Belgian’s role within the team will be twofold: sharing his experience with his new teammates, and earning results for himself and the team.
“He can pass on his experience to the current team, which is hungry for new success,” Sargeant said. “His age is a relative term; you are as old or fit as you feel.”