Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), 36, says that he still has plenty of time to add Paris-Roubaix to his list of career victories.
The Belgian has already won three other Monuments – Tour of Flanders, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Lombardia – and a world title. His best place is Roubaix is 15th, but that was last year when he raced it seriously for the first time.
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Gilbert told Cycling Weekly that he didn’t believe time was running out for him.
“When you look at the age of the ex-winners they are quite old sometimes,” he said. “You see that this can only happen in these types of races where the explosiveness is not so important, but the resistance is really important. With age you have more of that, you don’t get tired, you are like an old diesel motor. You never break.”
Australian Mathew Hayman won in 2016 when he was 37 years old, before retiring at the start of 2019.
Gilbert has only raced Paris-Roubaix twice, so he is still learning. In 2007, he was still racing with Française des Jeux and then he returned last year after having devoted so much time to races like the Ardennes Classics.
“I’m happy because I won some races before [trying for Paris-Roubaix], that was my goal, to try to win as much and different races as possible. That’s what I did. In my eyes that was important,” he continued.
“Now it’s time to give a try at this, a little like Alejandro Valverde is doing with Flanders. He also won a lot of different races before, so not it’s time for him to go for Flanders, we also have the same goal.”
Gilbert raced for teams Lotto and BMC after leaving Française des Jeux. He built up a hefty palmarès with stages in the Tour de France and time in the yellow jersey. Now with Deceuninck-Quick-Step, the top cobbled Classics team, he has his best opportunity to learn.
With the team, he won the Tour of Flanders solo in 2017 and returned to Paris-Roubaix after 10 years. He began to pick up many skills, including positioning.
“It’s crazy how positioning is important in this race because sometimes even one spot too far back and your race is over, you have to be in the right position in the right moment, and sometimes the right position is the first three,” he said.
“This never happens in other races, you can be in the top 10 and still be able to win, but here maybe fifth or sixth is too far back because you cannot move up and pass other guys. Or it split in front of you and it’s going 60K an hour and it’s not possible to close even one metre.”
A long-time goal for Gilbert is trying to win all five Monuments. He is lacking Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix. A win this Sunday would put him one step closer, but could be unrealistic given he was sick last week and forced to quit the Tour of Flanders early.
“It’s hard to say. I was trying training carefully this week I didn’t go deep because I was scared to get sick again,” he added.
“One thing that is important its that no one is above the others, it’s quite open again, I expect a quite tactical race, luck on your side and to be able to move and have the right combination. The team tactics will play a big role. if we are more in the final, the more the better.”