Philippe Gilbert, former road world champion as well as Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix winner, believes that Soudal Quick-Step’s Julian Alaphilippe would benefit from a change of team in the coming years.
Speaking to Cycling Weekly at Warner Bros. Discovery’s start of cycling season launch event, Gilbert explained that a fresh start, and new challenge could be key to helping Alaphilippe recapture his past form which brought him so much success including two road world titles.
“Of course, it’s already been a long time that he’s been there,” Gilbert said. “It’s already almost ten years. So a long, long time, and maybe it’s good to see other things.”
Most of Gilbert’s success came in the colours of the then Quick-Step Floors team, although the Belgian moved on to sign for Lotto-Soudal for the 2020 season. Gilbert then rode for Lotto-Soudal until his retirement at the end of last year.
“I was the first one to do the same, you know, because it’s always good to change,” Gilbert added. “It’s a new challenge, you see new people, you see new methods of training, a new method of nutrition, new material. So I think it’s always good to change after a while, yeah.”
Former two-time world champion Alaphilippe began the current season in impressive style by winning the Faun-Ardèche Classic. However, he then finished a disappointing 43rd at Strade Bianche, before finishing eleventh at Milan-San Remo. Alaphilippe then abandoned the recent E3 Saxo Classic due to illness.
In the meantime, both Alaphilippe and his teammate Kasper Asgreen- a previous winner of the Tour of Flanders- have been subject to strong criticism from Soudal Quick-Step’s general manager Patrick Lefevere in the Belgian press.
Lefevere has said that Alaphilippe in particular could leave the Belgian team if he was “tired of the environment”.
Gilbert, who is currently working as a racing pundit for Eurosport GCN+ for 2023, explained that he believes criticising underperforming riders in the media is not the right way to motivate them.
“When you’re not good, you know you’re not good you know,” Gilbert said. “When you get criticism it’s then having a negative effect. So to me, it’s a mistake to speak like this in the media at that moment.”
Alaphilippe will share Quick-Step’s leadership duties at this afternoon's Dwaars door Vlaanderen, a race which Lefevere and other team management will have earmarked as a must-win to save their disappointing Classics campaign.
If the team are to regain their past Classics strength, Gilbert believes a new direction is needed in terms of recruitment in the off-season.
“Their only chance to improve is to sign different riders for next year,” Gilbert said. “I think Patrick knows this, and that’s why he’s realistic about their chances. It’s a cycle you know, they’re down right now, but maybe they’ll come back up. For the moment they are down in the Flemish Classics group you know.”
“They’ve definitely changed their mentality now and invested more around Remco [Evenepoel] which is more for the hillier Classics and stage races.”
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