Philippe Gilbert has said he doesn’t understand the fall that caused him to abandon the men’s road race of the Yorkshire 2019 World Championships.
The Belgian crashed as the peloton entered the Harrogate circuit with 120km of racing remaining, getting back on his bike and completing one lap before abandoning in tears.
“I don’t understand my fall,” Gilbert told Belgian television after climbing off. “Suddenly I was there. Maybe it was a flat tyre that made me lose my balance. I had been well positioned.”
Despite getting back on his bike, the 37-year-old says the cold quickly became a factor, the rain causing race organisers to shorten the course, as well as a knee injury causing him issues.
“After the fall, the cold hit me and I had pain in my knee,” he said. “It was a cold shock. I could still kick but relaunching hurt a lot. It took too much effort. It was impossible to get back in.”
Gilbert adds he was feeling good, in what may be one of the last chances for him to double his Worlds victory tally to two, having won in Limburg, the Netherlands, in 2012.
“I felt good, and of course I am disappointed. Those tears are normal. I have worked very hard towards this. This is a big disappointment.”
The Belgian also says he believed he caused the fall at the Harrogate finish line, and has already apologised to riders he brought down with him.
“I think I caused the fall. Sorry to the other riders who also fell with me. I spoke with Nikias Arndt, who was on my wheel. He too could not understand the fall.”
Remco Evenepoel, his younger Belgian team-mate, then worked hard to try and bring his team leader back up to the peloton. However, this effort proved fruitless, with the 19-year-old being dropped and also eventually abandoning.
“Remco was strong,” said Gilbert. “We came a little closer [to catching the peloton] when he was leading, but not enough. It didn’t make sense anymore [to continue].”
Also speaking after his abandon, Remco Evenepoel said: “I had just started peeing and in returning to the front I saw the fall happen and Phil lying there,” said the young rider. “It was agreed that if something happened to Phil, I would help him. That was my job. “