“We decided with the team that I was going to take a rest period now because things are not going well,” Gilbert explained. “It’s been a few weeks of things going wrong. We took the time to analyse everything we could analyse and the best explanation is that it is a lack of mental and physical freshness.
“I think it’s due to all the work I did after my crash in the Tour de France last year…at the time there was a misdiagnosis of the knee. We did not realise the seriousness of this second fall. It was much more serious than we thought. Maybe I should have ended my 2020 season at that point.”
Gilbert says Milan – San Remo was the first day he experienced no pain in his knee, but that the energy spent rehabilitating over the months leading up to that race, as well as the mental pressure he’s put on himself to try and complete his set of Monument victories, means he can’t currently reach his top level.
“After analysis now, I realize that during the internship with the team in January, I was, I think, still at least 20 or 30 per cent behind the group average,” Gilbert says. “I then had a period of doubt, especially because I was putting pressure on myself for Milan-San Remo, to be ready. So I worked harder to try to come back. I made a lot of physical progress since that stage, but maybe a little too fast too. And now I pay for it. At Nieuwsblad I had a good result but it was more thanks to experience than with my legs.”
Gilbert will now spend nearly a week off the bike before tentatively returning to training, with half an eye on the Ardennes Classics.
“My idea is to do 4-5 days without a bike and then resume training gently. The Ardennes Classics are still possible, but it’s still too early to talk about specific things. I want to feel and have my head 100 percent to play a part in the finals. That’s why I compete,” he said.