At 34 years old, Philippe Gilbert (QuickStep Floors) is aware that time is running out for him to add to his extensive list of Classics wins, but the Belgian is determined to add to his palmares before eventually hanging up his wheels.
The Belgian national road champion has won Amstel Gold three times, Il Lombardia twice and Liege-Bastogne-Liege once. Add in a rainbow jersey and eight stages spanning all three Grand Tours, and it's easy to state that he's one of the most complete one-day riders of his generation.
Top of the list of aims for 2017 is a victory in Milan-San Remo or the Tour of Flanders – two races that are still missing on his roll of honour. Win both and he would complete the set of cycling's five Monuments.
"My dream is to win all of them. I've won some but I still need to win San Remo and Flanders. If I can win one of those it would be nice," he told Cyclingnews.
'Nice' might be somewhat of an understatement. Gilbert has not won a Classic since 2014 with injuries and bad luck holding him back in recent years.
"For sure I've had some bad luck in the past but it's like I've always said, when you're good you never crash and you're never sick," he said, reminding all of his 2011 season in which he won all three Ardennes races. "When you're a little bit less, then something happens, and when you crash or you get ill there's always a reason. I hope that I'll be good and that I can compete for the win.
"My dream is to win all of them [ed. Monuments]. I've won some but I still need to win San Remo and Flanders. If I can win one of those it would be nice. It would be more emotional than winning a second Liege or a fourth Amstel."
This year Gilbert has changed teams, moving from BMC Racing after five year's service and linking up with former rival Tom Boonen. The two elder statesmen of Belgian one-day racing have yet to finish a race together after Boonen crashed out of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. With Boonen now at Tirreno and Gilbert at Paris-Nice the pair can look forward to their next joint outing, possibly at Milan-San Remo.
"It was a pity that he crashed in Het Nieuwsblad. I don't know the selection yet for Milan-San Remo, I don't know if he goes there or not, but I hope to race with him as soon as possible," Gilbert said.
"With Tom it's always easy. He's a good rider, but he knows what he wants and he knows what he needs to do. He's a real leader and he talks in the meetings. He's always motivating the group in a good way.
"So far the move to QuickStep Floors has good and the level of the riders is really high. I think that's why everyone is strong because when you go home after a race and you say to yourself 'I'm not one of the best in the team.' Then you need to train harder. That pushes you to go harder. That's professional sport.”
For now, the objective for Gilbert and his new team is to carry Julian Alaphilippe towards Paris-Nice victory. The Frenchman leads Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) by 33 seconds. Stage 6 sees the race head into the mountains and Gilbert's role will be to protect his young team leader until the pure climbers take over.
"The goal is to win Paris-Nice with either Julian or Dan Martin," he said. "They're still close together. For me it's different, with the long climbs we will have to see, but I can be a good support for them."
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.