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Gilbert to skip Roubaix, a rarity for Flanders champs

Philippe Gilbert is one of very few Flanders winners to skip Roubaix after his victory in De Ronde. He will focus on Ardennes classics.

Cobbled classics specialists tread a familiar path through the spring races, ordinarily going from Gent-Wevelgem to Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) to Paris-Roubaix, but as he’s already proven, Philippe Gilbert does not fit the mold. The Belgian champion, who won Flanders with an emphatic, long-range solo breakaway will skip Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix.

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“Paris-Roubaix has a magnetic attraction on me, but I won’t be there this year. I need to take a break, recover properly and then begin thinking of the Ardennes, where I’ll be part of a very strong team,” Gilbert said in a Quick-Step team statement.

In the past 10 years, only one Tour of Flanders winner has missed Paris-Roubaix following his victory in De Ronde, Nick Nuyens in 2011, then riding for Saxo Bank-Sungard.

Unlike some of his fellow Belgians — Quick-Step’s Tom Boonen, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), or Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale) — Gilbert’s ambitions, and his palmares, extend beyond the cobbled classics. He is one of only four riders in the modern era to win both a cobblestone monument and an Ardennes monument. The other three to achieve this feat are Michele Bartoli and Rolf Sorensen in the 1990s, and Sean Kelly in the early 1980s.

Gilbert is a bit small to pound the rough Roubaix pavé, weighing a bit under 150 pounds, just shy of six feet tall, but that hasn’t stopped him from expressing his interest in winning “The Queen of the Classics,” in addition to Milano-Sanremo, the two monument classics he has yet to conquer. That physique surely helped him win the Amstel Gold Race three times, claim the Ardennes treble of Amstel, Flèche Wallonne, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2011, two editions of Giro di Lombardia, and world championships in 2012.

“I’ve only raced Roubaix once, back in 2007, and for a race like that you need experience,” added Gilbert.

Although his Quick-Step team has yet to confirm a roster for Roubaix, Boonen will lead the Belgian team in his final race as a professional, one which he has won three times in his storied career.