First-year professional, 22-year-old Loïc Vliegen was with Gilbert but was unharmed. The team believe police arrested the men at the time of the incident, said to be on roads near Liège.
“Two intoxicated men in a car” targeted Gilbert and Vliegen, said BMC in a statement. “One of the men stepped out of the car and acted aggressively towards Vliegen and Gilbert.” The man fractured Gilbert’s middle finger on his left hand.
“I’m not feeling too bad at all,” Gilbert said after emergency surgery. “More than anything I am shocked that this happened as you don’t expect anything like this to take place when you head out for a training ride.”
The 33-year-old Belgian won all three Ardennes Classics in 2011. He was building for Wednesday’s Brabantse Pijl and the following Ardennes Classics – the Amstel Gold Race, the Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
“Philippe was taken to hospital and underwent surgery to have five pins inserted to secure three small fractures in his middle finger,” team doctor, Max Testa said.
“He is otherwise fine but will need to take a day or two off the bike. After the weekend, we should have a better idea of the impact this will have on his Ardennes Classics campaign, but at this stage he should be fine to race. Luckily Loïc was not injured in the altercation.”