Phiilippe Gilbert crossed the finish line first at the 4 Jours de Dunkerque third stage today (Thursday) to end a 966-day period without a win.
Attacking with 500m remaining of the 170.1km third stage ride from Péronne to Mont-Saint-Éloi, Gilbert managed to hold on to the lead and secure his first victory in nearly three years.
The Belgian rider last won on stage 17 of the Vuelta a España on September 11, 2019 when he was at Deceuninck–Quick-Step, meaning this victory is also his first since returning to Lotto-Soudal at the beginning of 2020.
Speaking after the race, Gilbert said: “That [last win] was a long time ago. I came here to help Arnaud De Lie but he's not here now. So I tried it myself. This is rewarding. Now I hope to go for a good final classification."
Looking ahead, Gilbert expects the final stage on Saturday to spread the peloton, which he is hoping to take full advantage of. A 182.9km race from Ardres to Dunkirk, Gilbert could still win the 4 Jours de Dunkerque overall.
“Everything takes place on the flanks of the Kasselberg on Saturday, but in such a round you have to stay alert every moment,” said Gilbert.
In fact, Gilbert's win is the longest time between two consecutive stage wins in any race in history, his last victory at the 4 Jours de Dunkerque coming 17 years ago in 2005.
Three stages remain of the French race, with Gilbert sitting second in the general classification, though on the same time as leader Arvid de Kleijn (Human Powered Health).
The Lotto-Soudal rider will retire at the end of the season, as he calls time on a 20-year professional career in the peloton which has produced five Monument wins and countless Classics victories. He announced this decision last April, claiming he needs to spend more time with his family.
"At some point you have to stop," he said last year. "My career has lasted 20 years and there is more to life than just cycling. In my life I have made many sacrifices and now it is time to enjoy, for example, my family."
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Ryan is a staff writer for Cycling Weekly, having joined the team in September 2021. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before making his way to cycling. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer.
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