Philippe Gilbert ended his 2013 season by riding with 700 fans on home roads in the Belgian Ardennes on Sunday, and then unveiled the plaque that named a square in his honour in his home town of Sougne-Remouchamps.
700 fans turned out for the 52 mile ride, with fellow professional riders Maxim Monfort, Boris Valley (Lotto-Belisol), Loic Vliegen and Jerome Gilbert –Philippe’s younger brother, leading young and old in the hills and valleys of eastern Wallonne.
“It was a great success. I thought fewer people would attend this year because I didn’t win as much, but it seems the real fans are always there to support you. That warms my heart.” Gilbert told Belgian newspaper La Derniere Heure.
“It’s important for me to spend a couple days with my fans. It’s not always easy when you’ve got to stay focused and rest after races. But at my cyclo sportive event after the Ardennes and with this ride, it’s nice to spend time with them especially on the bike, our shared passion.”
Gilbert confirmed that he will miss the Tour of Flanders in 2014 and focus fully on the Ardennes Classics which cover his home roads in Wallonne. Allan Peiper, the new chief directeur sportif at BMC has said Gilbert will start his season at the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman before targeting Milan-San Remo, which includes the extra Pompeiana climb in the finale and so suits Gilbert much more. He will miss all the cobbled classics and instead ride Tour of Basque Country and Flèche Brabançonne.
In 2011, Gilbert won Flèche Brabançonne, the Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He started his 2013 season in the rainbow jersey at the Tour Down Under but struggled to win, only breaking his duck at the Vuelta a España. It was his only victory of the season.