"When Philippe Gilbert extended his contract with us for two more years, he negotiated a bonus for Paris-Roubaix and Milan-San Remo – the two Monuments that were missing from his palmarès," Deceuninck-QuickStep team manager Patrick Lefevere told the press after Gilbert won at Roubaix on Sunday.
"That gives you an indication of the type of person he is," the Belgian continued. "He's very stubborn, and had this on his mind.
"We were briefly worried last week when he got sick," Lefevere admitted. "But, at the age of 36, he knew exactly what he had to do. He saved all his energy for this week."
Gilbert's victory meant that the Belgian has now won four of cycling's five Monuments. Only Milan-San Remo has continued to elude him, with wins at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Tour of Flanders, Il Lombardia and now Paris-Roubaix in the bag.
"He's a really special guy," Lefevere added of Gilbert. "If you’ve won everything in your career, including the road race world championships and four out of the five Monument, and you see that even Philippe's crying, it's difficult not to as well, even for me..."
Holding back the tears, Lefevere was full of praise for the winner and the rest of his Deceuninck-QuickStep Roubaix squad.
"The race developed perfectly for us," he said. "Right from the start, the race was hard, but the team worked fantastically. Tim Declercq was fantastic, as always, as were Iljo Keisse, Kasper Asgreen, and Florian Sénéchal, who even went on to finish sixth.
"When the race kicked off, Philippe didn't get in the mix in too much at first. At 65km from the finish, he attacked, and then you knew that he was going well. And then we saw what happened next: he killed them, one after the other.
"He only allowed Nils Politt [Katusha-Alpecin] to join him, and he must have been confident because I expected him to attack on the climb in Hem, but he didn't do that," Lefevere continued.
"He saw that Politt was on the limit, but Politt has been riding very well lately, and wasn't slow at the finish. Katusha are having a disastrous season, but that's not our problem. After 257km, it's the strongest rider who wins the race."
Deceuninck-QuickStep also had Belgian road race champion Yves Lampaert in the selection of six riders that road away in the final 50km, and after Gilbert and Politt went clear in the final, key move of the race, Lampaert was able to ride home to the final podium spot in Roubaix.
"I was pleased that Yves was in the group because he really wanted to shine in his jersey – not only during the race, but also during the finale," said an appreciative Lefevere. "He did a massive amount of work. I was a bit scared when he got dropped on the Carrefour de l'Arbre sector, but he kept his cool.
"At the end of the race, everybody's running out of gas and he was still capable of riding away. With two riders, we had the option to start playing, but you can't ask a rider like Philippe Gilbert to wait."
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