After five years in the red and black of BMC Racing, 34-year-old Philippe Gilbert is sporting Quick-Step kit this season, and his change of scenery may see him adding new objectives. According to Belgian RTBF radio, Gilbert will be at the start line of the Tour of Flanders, and not just to put in miles ahead of the Ardennes Classics.
"The Tour of Flanders is a race that has always really interested me," Gilbert told RTBF. "Except in 2009, 2010 and 2011 with Lotto, I have never really prepared for Flanders. The two times I have tried, I have finished on the podium! Therefore, especially prepared with a Quick-Step team that lives for it, I am going to make the start with big ambitions."
Gilbert's five seasons at BMC were all spent riding alongside Greg Van Avermaet, who gradually emerged as the team's featured rider in the Cobbled Classics, with Gilbert focusing on the hillier Ardennes. Although he finished third in Flanders in both 2009 and 2010 and was ninth in 2011, Gilbert has not even started the race since 2012.
With Quick-Step, Gilbert will no longer need to worry about sharing one-day leadership with Van Avermaet, but now he'll need to coexist with three-time Flanders winner Tom Boonen and Quick-Step's stable of other Classics specialists. Gilbert feels strongly that the partnership can function successfully.
"It's loud and clear," he said. "With Boonen, one the one hand we are very different, and at the same time, very complementary. It's for that reason that it's going to work."
The Tour of Flanders is apparently not the only Cobbled Classic on Gilbert's schedule this spring either. According to RTBF, he is hoping to be at the start line of all the Flemish Classics.
Gilbert is slated to get his season underway in Spain next week at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana.