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Philippe Gilbert on loss of Milan-San Remo: public health comes first

Volta ao Algarve 2020 - 66th Edition - 1st stage Portimao - Lagos 195,6 km - 19/02/2020 - Philippe Gilbert (BEL - Lotto Soudal) - photo Nico Vereecken/PN/BettiniPhoto©2020
Gilbert at the recent Volta ao Algarve (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

There are plenty of riders whose plans and ambitions were dealt a blow by the postponement of Milan-San Remo, but the disappointment must have been extra bitter for Philippe Gilbert.  

The Belgian needs to win La Primavera in order to become only the fourth rider in history to complete the set of all five Monuments. At 37, time is running out, and any possible cancellation would be detrimental to his 'Strive for Five' ambitions. 

However, Gilbert maintained perspective when quizzed on the matter by Belgian media on Friday. 

"I completely understand the decision," the Lotto Soudal rider said. 

"Like everyone, I've followed the development of the cancellation of various sporting events, including cycling races. That's how it is - we'll always give priority to the health of the public above all else," he said.

On Friday, it was announced that Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo would not take place as planned, following a similar call on Strade Bianche and therefore taking out the March block of Italian racing. 

Organisers RCS Sport stated they would seek alternative dates in the calendar in order to run the races later in the year. In a busy schedule in an Olympic year, there has been talk of an October date for Milan-San Remo, possibly in a late-season Italian block following Il Lombardia. 

Gilbert, however, seemed uninterested in a possible change of dates.

"It's difficult to react because we're talking about an eventual date later in the season. It's only condition, and talking about the conditional is often a waste of time," he said. 

"It's something I have no control over and am following like everyone else. I hope the season - and daily life - will resume as normal as soon as possible."

Lotto Soudal CEO John Lelangue questioned where Milan-San Remo could fit into the calendar but insisted his team would be fully motivated if and when it did happen. 

"[Caleb] Ewan, [John]Degenkolb, [Tim] Wellens and Gilbert will want to participate - certainly Gilbert," said Lelangue, adding that Gilbert's ambitions extend beyond San Remo.

"We didn't sign Gilbert solely for Milan-San Remo. He can impose himself in numerous Classics and Monuments. There are plenty of other great races on the calendar, be they the cobbled Classics or the Ardennes Classics."