Philippe Gilbert, the 2012 world champion and on his day one of the strongest Classics riders in the peloton, has signed a deal to race with the Etixx-QuickStep team in 2017.
The Belgian rider has taken stages in all three Grand Tours and also won Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne, as well as over 50 other races. He, together with Davide Rebellin, are the only two riders to take those three Ardennes Classics in the same year.
Joining the squad will reinforce Etixx-QuickStep’s strength in races such as those Ardennes Classics. With Dan Martin and Julian Alaphilippe on board, the team will have a formidable lineup for those races next season.
“I was in contact with Patrick [team CEO Patrick Lefevere – ed.] since my U23 spell and now I finally have the chance to ride here,” he said on Tuesday. “I’m excited to continue my career together with Etixx – Quick-Step, a team whose ethos and aggressive style of racing are very much to my liking.
“I want to thank my former team for the time spent together and wish them all the best, but now the moment has come for a new chapter in my career. I’m looking forward to next season and I hope to be competitive and bring my contribution and experience to the Classics and to the other important races the team will target.”
Gilbert spent the past five years with the BMC Racing Team, but was not selected for this year’s Tour de France. Relations with the team appear to have chilled after he was unable to contend for the Classics after fracturing his finger in the spring.
He was involved in an altercation with a motorist while out training and sustained the injury then.
Lefevere is enthusiastic about the team’s acquisition. “Philippe is one of the most talented riders in the peloton and will be an important addition to our roster. A prolific and intelligent rider, he brings experience, panache and quality, as well as depth to the Classics squad.”
Gilbert is 34 years of age but Lefevere is convinced he has plenty left in the tank.
“He still has hunger and motivation, which I’m sure will help him thrive next season when he’ll wear the kit of Etixx – Quick-Step. We are very happy to add a rider of his calibre to our team for 2017.”
Gilbert bounced back from his Classics disappointment by taking two stages and second overall in the Skoda Tour of Luxembourg plus the Belgian road race championship.
He joins recent signing Dries Devenyns plus the neo pros Rémi Cavagna, Enric Mas and Maximilian Schachmann in moving to the squad.