Philippe Gilbert gave team mate and world champion Cadel Evans an emotional hug after winning the Tour of Lombardy and completing a perfect end of season for the Silence-Lotto team.
Other teams dominated in the spring and summer, when little was heard from the Silence riders, but they more than made up for it by winning the last five big races of the season.
Evans won the world title in Mendrisio and then Gilbert took over. The Tour of Lombardy was his fourth straight victory after also dominating the Coppa Sabatini in Italy, the Paris-Tours classics last weekend in France and then the Grande Piemonte on Thursday.
The 27 year-old Belgian was unbeatable in all three races and combined his strength and astuteness to win the Tour of Lombardy.
He surged clear near the top of the final climb overlooking Como and then comfortably beat Spain’s Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) in the two-man sprint.
“It’s great to win this race and take four in a row. This is usually a really hard race but with my form at the moment, I can climb, sprint and do everything. I’m really strong,” Gilberto said, struggling to believe he had become the first Belgian for almost 30 years to win the race of the falling leaves.
“It’s a pity the season is over”
Before his strong finale to the season, Gilbert had won a stage of the Giro d’Italia in May and one in the Ster Elektrotoer in June. He was consistently placed in the classics but had failed to land a big one.
Now he has won both Paris-Tours and the Tour of Lombardy in a week, leaving Italy without a single classic win all season.
Gilbert will ride the Chrono Des Herbiers on Sunday but would surely love it to be February instead of October.
“It’s a pity the season is over but it’s great to end it with a big win. A lot of people said I can’t win big races but I’ve proved them wrong,” he said.
“I’m lighter than I’ve ever been and that’s made a difference. So has the strength of the team. Evans set a really high pace on the last climb to bring back the dangerous move and that was perfect for me. I was never really worried about Sanchez in the sprint.”