Philippe Gilbert will leave Deceuninck-QuickStep at the end of this season to join Lotto Soudal, where he has signed a three-year contract. The 37-year-old Gilbert previously spent three seasons at Lotto between 2009 and 2011.
Winner of Paris-Roubaix in April, Gilbert was left out of the Deceuninck-QuickStep team for the Tour de France and had been linked with a move to Lotto Soudal in recent weeks after it was reported in the Belgian press that he had not been offered a multi-year contract extension by Deceuninck-QuickStep.
"I still wanted to race, without any doubt. When I learned that I could prolong at my current team for only one year, it was clear to me that I wanted to change," Gilbert said in a statement released by his new team on Monday. "The clearest interest and project was the one of Lotto Soudal. Of course, I know the team, a lot of riders and staff are no strangers to me, I know the spirit and I will again be part of a Belgian project."
Gilbert rode under manager Marc Sergeant during his previous stint at the team, while current Lotto Soudal general manager John Lelangue was part of the set-up at BMC, where Gilbert raced between 2012 and 2016. After three seasons with Patrick Lefevere's QuickStep, Gilbert now moves to Belgium's other WorldTour team.
"I am very happy that we reached an agreement quite quickly," Gilbert said. "I know John Lelangue from my period at BMC as a person who highly values organisation and discipline. I achieved my first big successes together with sports manager Marc Sergeant. Primarily, my goals are to be found in the one-day races and the big Classics."
Gilbert won his first Monuments at Lotto, when he claimed Il Lombardia in 2009 and 2010 and then landed Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2011. He added to his collection at QuickStep, winning the Tour of Flanders in 2016 and Paris-Roubaix this season, and Milan-San Remo is the lone Monument missing from Gilbert's palmarès.
His arrival at Lotto Soudal will bolster the team's Classics unit, particularly in light of Tiesj Benoot's departure to Sunweb at the end of this season. Earlier on Monday, it was confirmed that Victor Campenaerts will leave Lotto Soudal for Dimension Data in 2020.
"The past few years, I watched the team from outside and I think they maybe lacked a real leader in those races. I want to try to lift the team to a higher level, by performing myself but also by making other riders better," Gilbert said.
"It gives me just as much pleasure if they would show themselves important or if they would be able to win. I know a couple of guys from the national team, others like [Tim] Wellens and [Caleb] Ewan live nearby. Maxime Monfort and I almost have the same age and I have been racing against some others for several years."
Gilbert will be 40 years old by the time his contract expires at the end of 2022, but Marc Sergeant was adamant that the Belgian was a worthwhile investment.
"His age is a relative term, you are as old or fit as you feel," Sergeant said. "He still has that big urge to prove himself and he is go-getter, that is his secret. In terms of race schedule, he has always been a rider who is active from February till October."
Lelangue added that Gilbert's arrival would serve "to highlight the DNA of the team more clearly in the one-day races."
World champion in 2012, Gilbert has won 75 races as a professional, including four editions of Amstel Gold Races and stages in all three Grand Tours, as well as Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Flèche Wallonne, the Clásica San Sebástian and Paris-Tours. He will ride the Vuelta a España in preparation for the Yorkshire Worlds, before bringing the curtain down on his three years with QuickStep at Il Lombardia.
"At the Vuelta, the World Championships and the Tour of Lombardy, I want to conclude my time at Deceuninck - Quick Step as good as possible, preferably with a victory," Gilbert said.