Philippe Gilbert could make a return to Lotto-Soudal as he says his non-selection for the Tour de France will definitely play a role in whether he renews with Deceuninck – Quick-Step, his current contract set to expire at the end of the season.
As soon as news broke of the 36-year-old’s omission from the Tour, a number of teams were straight on the phone to the Belgian, Gilbert told Flemish newspaper Nieuwsblad.
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One of those teams were Lotto-Soudal, the Belgian team Gilbert last raced for in 2011, which was his most successful year on the bike. That year Gilbert picked up the stage one victory and first yellow jersey of the Tour de France, both national road and time trial championships as well as a number of spring Classics titles including Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Strade Bianche.
Re-signing for his old team would also see a reunion with his old BMC boss, John Lelangue, who has made it very clear he wants to sign the 2019 Paris-Roubaix winner for the 2020 season.
“He’s on our list,” Lelangue said. “I know Philippe well, he could be a real leader for our team. I’m definitely going to listen to his manager. He wants to race for another two years and I am convinced that he will do well. He still has the motivation of a junior.”
Another option would be returning to his first professional team FDJ, where he spent five years from 2003-2008, and his old boss Marc Madiot remains at the helm of the French team.
Other teams reportedly interested include Cofidis, who are apparently also keen on Gilbert’s team-mate Elia Viviani, Mark Cavendish’s Dimension Data and Arkéa-Samsic, who are lining up a move for Movistar’s Nairo Quintana.
Despite initially striking a conciliatory tone and wishing his team-mates well for July, Gilbert has said he “can’t really understand the decision” to leave him out of the Tour squad.
“It was a complete surprise,” Gilbert said, “I had worked hard towards it. I was also extra motivated by the start in Brussels and I wanted to take revenge for last year after my heavy fall.”
At the 2018 Tour Gilbert suffered a broken kneecap after a crash on stage 16, and says the decision by his Deceuninck – Quick-Step team will influence his decision on whether to remain at the Belgian outfit when his contract expires at the end of the year.
“I have many contacts and we will make the best decision in the coming weeks,” Gilbert said. “But of course this non-selection will play a role in my decision whether or not to stay at Deceuninck-Quick Step.
“In my career I have always chosen teams based on my ambitions and it will stay that way. I would like to continue for another two years and have different options. This morning, when the news appeared in the media, team managers from different teams have already called me. “
In light of leaving Gilbert out, Deceuninck – Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere has explained the rationale behind the decision, saying Elia Viviani as well as his two lead-out men Max Richeze and Michael Mørkøv were certainties, as was Enric Mas and his helper Dries Devenyns. Julian Alaphilippe is the first name on any squad list based on his current form and Kasper Asgreen’s breakthrough 2019 season made him hard to leave out. Belgian champion Yves Lampaert will also provide strength and bring balance to what is already a star-studded squad.
“His non-selection for the Tour has nothing to do with whether or not Gilbert stays in the team,” Lefevere said. “I have never dealt with that and will never do that. If it turns out that we miss the ball by leaving it at home, then that is so and I take responsibility for it. Or I hope he stays? You are nothing without hope.
“We’ll see if I have enough money, right. If he signs, that’s fine. If he does not do that, it is not the end of the world. When he signed with us in 2017, we were both very happy. We have achieved the maximum in terms of performance. “
Philippe Gilbert took third place at the Flandrian Halle-Ingooigem one-day race on June 26 but apparently failed to cheer as he stepped up to the podium as well as refusing to drink the celebratory beer provided by race sponsors.