Philippe Gilbert has highlighted his ambitious challenge of winning all five Monuments before he calls time on his illustrious career.
Speaking to Cycling Weekly at the Quick-Step Floors training camp in Calpe, Spain, the Tour of Flanders champion reinforced his desire to rack up more one-day success with the Belgian outfit.
“This team is really the best team to be on if you have an ambition in the Classics, this is why I am here and why I signed a new contract.”
The first main goal on Gilbert’s agenda for the 2018 season is Milan-San Remo in his quest to ‘strive For five’, but he is well aware of the challenge in front of him.
“[Milan]-San Remo is not easy to make something happen, you see a rider like [Peter] Sagan who is the strongest there and still lose it.
“When you start Flanders in the best condition I don’t think you can lose it because at the end of the day the best rider usually wins, it is the same in Liège and Roubaix as well. Whereas it is always difficult to manage the win at Milan-San Remo.”
If the former BMC man was to achieve the historic feat, winning over the cobbles of northern France would also have to be conquered at some point before the 35-year-old rider retires.
However, Gilbert wasn’t playing up to the hype that the ‘Hell of the North’ typically attracts.
“We make a lot of things about it, but it is not that bad. It is like every Classic; you finish empty but it is sometimes exaggerated.”
This isn’t to say that the former world champion is expecting a victorious return back onto the harsh cobbles of France on his first attempt, having made his only career appearance in 2007 where he placed 52nd.
“It is really hard to say that I am going to go there and race for the win, but of course I want to go and get a lot of experience there and get stronger after it.
“It’ll be easier to say what I think about it after the race because without the experience it is hard, but it is a special race.”
Eddy Merckx, Roger De Vlaeminck and Rik Van Looy are the only three riders to have ever won all five Monuments, but Gilbert feels he is at the best team to help him join this legendary trio, re-invigorating his career by moving back to the Belgian team at the beginning of last season.
“I was happy to change team because I did five years at BMC and it was a good experience but it was time to change and sign for Quick-Step because it was what I really wanted.
“That is why I contacted Patrick [Lafavere] one and half years ago, and I think I made the right decision.”