While Philippe Gilbert will have to wait another year to try and complete his set of five Monument victories, the Belgian’s mantlepiece won’t be left bare if he fails to win Milan – San Remo during the final years of his career.
A punchy rider who knows how to win, trying to boil Gilbert’s best victories down is no mean feat. With a career now entering a third different decade, Gilbert has at one point or another beaten all the best riders who’ve graced the peloton since the turn of the century.
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Here are 10 of his best victories so far, ranked.
10. Vuelta a España 2019: Stage 17
Philippe Gilbert put the finishing touches to a vintage year for Deceuninck – Quick-Step by winning two stages at the 2019 Vuelta a España, taking his total count of Spanish Grand Tour stage victories to seven.
On stage 17, seven of the eight Deceuninck squad members made the front group as they blew the race to pieces in crosswinds. With the main GC men caught out behind a frantic game of cat and mouse making up the rest of the day’s action as a blistering 50km/h average speed was set.
With 40km to go there were more riders in the breakaway than in the GC chase group behind as Deceuninck – Quick-Step pulled off a masterclass. Zdeněk Štybar attacked with 2km to go before Philippe Gilbert took over, beating Bora-Hansgrohe’s Sam Bennett in the sprint finish.
9. Il Lombardia 2009
Silence-Lotto only had seven victories to their name for the 2009 season by the time August rolled around before the Belgian squad were rescued by Cadel Evans’ Worlds title and Gilbert’s October to remember.
After taking Paris-Tours and Gran Piemonte, the then 27-year-old countered Alexandre Vinokourov’s move in the latter stages of Il Lombardia, attacking near the top of the Civiglio and then only taking Sammy Sanchez with him up the road.
The duo worked well together so as to not allow Vinokourov or Ivan Basso back into the fold. However, going into the final kilometre Sanchez sat on Gilbert’s wheel, the chase group only five seconds behind but the Spaniard not willing to tow the faster Belgian to the line.
Gilbert watches the chase closing in, waiting for Sanchez’s attack to come, but it didn’t. Gilbert then accelerated beneath Flandrian flags at the finish line to take his first-ever Monument.
8. Giro d’Italia 2009: Stage 20
Having staved off urges to quit the race after struggling through the mountains the week before, Gilbert outfoxed the sprinters to take his first Grand Tour stage victory on the second to last day of the 2009 Giro.
On the first lap of Anagni, Gilbert spotted the perfect moment to attack, making his move in the exact same spot a lap later with just over a kilometre to the line, fending off a scrambling Thomas Voeckler who finished second.
7. Amstel Gold Race 2017
Michał Kwiatkowski was looking imperiously strong heading into the finish, attacking twice and Gilbert forced to reel the Pole back in on the second attempt.
The Belgian road race champion wasn’t about to allow Kwiatkowski a third try, though, accelerating off the front of the group and taking only the Sky rider with him.
The pair sailed towards the finish, Kwiatkowski on Gilbert’s wheel, the Pole launching his attack with 300m to go.
He looked to have opened up a decisive gap but Gilbert fought back, timing his counter perfectly to pip Kwiatkowski to the win.
As he crossed the line he held up four fingers to signify his number of victories in the Limburg race, his 2017 win making him just the third rider in history after Merckx (1975) and Jan Raas (1979) to win both the last cobbled Classic (Flanders) and first Ardennes Classic (Amstel Gold) in the calendar in the same year.
6. La Flèche Wallone 2011
Following triumphs at the Flèche Brabançonne and Amstel Gold Race, Gilbert was back in home territory looking for a third win in the same week.
Up the Mur de Huy Gilbert moved to the front, checked behind him, saw Alberto Contador and Joaquim Rodriguez, and then attacked, going for glory.
The pack strung out behind the unstoppable Belgian, who soloed to victory, having time to soak in the crowd as he crossed the line to claim his first, and so far only, Walloon Arrow.
5. Tour de France 2011: Stage one
Gilbert fulfilled his favourite status on stage one of the 2011 Tour, taking the first yellow jersey thanks to a made-to-match uphill kick to Mont des Alouettes.
The newly crowned Belgian road race champion followed Fabian Cancellara, who had attacked with 600m to go, and then passed the decorated Swiss rider before holding off the rest of the peloton as he claimed his only Tour stage victory to date.
4. UCI Road World Championships 2012 – Valkenburg, the Netherlands
After Luca Paolini upped the pace on the Cauberg, looking to set things up for leader Vincenzo Nibali, it was Gilbert who actually profited most, countering after the Italians had softened his rivals legs, distancing all competitors over the final metres of the climb.
Despite a chase containing Russia Alexandr Kolobnev, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Alejandro Valverde, Gilbert was away and took the first men’s road race rainbow jersey for Belgium since Tom Boonen in 2005.
3. Paris-Roubaix 2019
With three out of five Monuments secured and entering into the twilight years of his career, time was against Gilbert if he wanted to complete his set.
Gilbert attacked the leading group of favourites with 65km to go, later making the decisive move with 16km remaining before Nils Politt countered a couple of kilometres later.
This dispensed with Peter Sagan, Yves Lampaert and Sep Vanmarcke, with only Gilbert able to hold his wheel.
Sagan’s group were 10 seconds behind entering the final 10km, yet this gap would only increase as the leading pair entered the Roubaix velodrome.
Politt barely stood a chance against a wily veteran such as Gilbert, and the German found himself in a bind as Gilbert’s team-mate Lampaert was closing in on the duo from behind.
Politt watched Gilbert like a hawk before the Belgian made a dive for the line round the final bend, outsprinting Politt to claim a momentous victory.
2. Tour of Flanders 2017
Gilbert put the hammer down on the Kwaremont with 55km to go, going off in search of what at that time was a third different Monument victory.
Behind, things were going less well for his Quick-Step team-mates, as Tom Boonen suffered a mechanical that saw him fall out of contention. Peter Sagan then took up the chase, with Greg Van Avermaet and Oliver Naesen following. However, as Sagan increased the pace the trio crashed, leaving Gilbert with a clear run at victory.
Resplendent in the colours of the Belgian road race champion, Gilbert held his bike aloft as he crossed the finish line nearly 30 seconds clear.
1. Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2011
Moreno Argentin and Alejandro Valverde had both completed the Ardennes double, winning both Amstel and Flèche Wallonne in the same year, but with victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège Gilbert would become the first rider since Davide Rebellin in 2004 to complete the triple.
Unfortunately, standing between Gilbert and this accolade were the Schleck brothers. With 6km to go, it was just the Belgian and the Luxembourg duo left, the brothers needing to attack as they had no hope of beating Gilbert in a sprint finish.
Greg Van Avermaet chased behind as Andy Schleck was briefly dropped by Gilbert, Frank hanging on and offering no help as his brother eventually got back on.
Into the final kilometre, Gilbert was the filling in the Luxembourg sandwich, nestled in between the two Leopard-Trek riders. The Lotto rider eventually attacked around the final corner, blowing the Schleck’s away to take the victory. Neither Frank or Andy could outwit Gilbert on the run-in, or match his power in the closing metres.