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August 20, 2019
Photography by Kristof Ramon
Reigning Paris-Roubaix champion Philippe Gilbert will head to Lotto-Soudal next season after spending the last three years with the Deceuninck-Quick-Step organization.
Gilbert will join Lotto-Soudal on a three-year deal. As the 37-year-old Belgian confirmed via his new team’s signing announcement, the length of the contract was a major factor in drawing Gilbert to Lotto-Soudal, a team he knows well, having enjoyed some of the biggest years of his illustrious career with past iterations of the organization.
“I still wanted to race, without any doubt,” Gilbert said. “When I learned that I could prolong at my current team for only one year, it was clear to me that I wanted to change. The clearest interest and project was the one of Lotto Soudal. Of course, I know the team, a lot of riders and staff are no strangers to me, I know the spirit and I will again be part of a Belgian project.”
In Gilbert’s past stint with the now-Lotto-Soudal team, from 2009 to 2011, he racked up three Monument Classic wins (two at the Tour of Lombardy and one at Liège-Bastogne-Liège) and stage victories at all three Grand Tours along with numerous other major results. He then rode with the BMC squad for five years before transferring to Deceuninck-Quick-Step in 2017.
Philippe Gilbert wins Paris-Roubaix. Photo: ©kramon
Over the past few seasons, Gilbert worked to evolve from a punchy Ardennes-style specialist into a contender for the cobbled Classics, and the shift in focus bore fruit in the form of a Tour of Flanders victory in 2018 and a Paris-Roubaix title this spring, among other strong results. As the end of his contract approached, however, Gilbert and Deceuninck-Quick-Step could not come to terms on an extension.
Now, he is making a return of sorts to Belgium’s other WorldTour outfit.
“I am very happy that we reached an agreement quite quickly. I know [general manager] John Lelangue from my period at BMC as a person who highly values organization and discipline. I achieved my first big successes together with sports manager Marc Sergeant,” Gilbert said. “Primarily, my goals are to be found in the one-day races and the big Classics. Lotto Soudal gets stronger and stronger, we need to fight against the absolute top teams, not by expressing big ambitions beforehand, but by getting results.”
Gilbert will slot in to Lotto-Soudal’s lineup next year as the proven contender in a team with a penchant for animating the Classics but few major wins in recent seasons.
“The past few years, I watched the team from outside and I think they maybe lacked a real leader in those races,” Gilbert said. “I want to try to lift the team to a higher level, by performing myself but also by making other riders better.”
For now, however, Gilbert still has a few objectives ahead in his final year with Deceuninck-Quick-Step, where he said he wants to close things out “as good as possible, preferably with a victory.” He is headed to the Vuelta a España this weekend and will then look to contend at the Yorkshire world road championships and Il Lombardia before the close of the season.