Philippe Gilbert will not feature in the upcoming Classics as he continues to struggle with a knee injury suffered at the Tour de France, his Lotto-Soudal team have said.
The Belgian crashed on a rain-soaked stage one of the Tour out and back from Nice, injuring his knee. Despite finishing the stage, it was later revealed he had suffered a broken knee cap and he subsequently abandoned.
Gilbert returned to racing relatively quickly, taking part and finishing the five-stage Tour du Luxembourg (15-19 September). The 38-year-old then rode the one-day Belgian race Gooikse Pijl before taking part in the Belgian National Championships road race, where he finished 22nd.
He then started the BinckBank Tour on Tuesday in preparation for the Classics, completing stage one before the enforced rest day on Wednesday after coronavirus restrictions in the Netherlands forced stage two to be cancelled.
Gilbert has now said that despite his quick return to racing he has been suffering pain in his injured knee, and as such won’t be ready to take on the Tour of Flanders (October 18) or defend his title at Paris-Roubaix (October 25). It caps off a difficult first year at Lotto-Soudal for the five-time Monument winner after the season’s disruption by the coronavirus pandemic and now his injury.
“I quickly got back on the bike after my crash on August 29,” Gilbert said.
“Maybe I started again too soon, but the rehab was going well, the motivation and morale were still there, and I really wanted to race.
“I resumed in the Tour du Luxembourg and then competed in two more one-day races, but I still felt pain. This pain became more prominent in the first stage of the BinckBank Tour. I then realised that I couldn’t be at my best at the Tour of Flanders and at Paris-Roubaix. These races are even more demanding on the body, the body must be 200% ready.”
Gilbert will now head to his home in Monaco where he’ll begin rehabilitation on his knee, and hopes to potentially take part in the rescheduled Vuelta a España which takes place October 20 to November 8. His long-term goal will be aiming at riding at full strength come the 2021 Classics in the spring.
“My first priority is to heal completely,” he said. “I still have a lot of goals in cycling, for next season certainly, but very maybe for this season as well. Hopefully a Tour of Spain participation is still playable, but that’s not yet relevant. What matters now is a full recovery. “