Philippe Gilbert made it very clear at the start of this cycling season that he will be retiring. Although he did say that he will be leaving this sport behind, it does not mean that he has lost the ability to win or even the desire to win. Gilbert is now 39, but he is still going strong with his wins, apart from the Milan-San Remo he has wins all over to complete his legacy. His ambitions did not let him down as he won the stage 3 of 4 Jours de Dunkerque.
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This marked Gilbert’s 79th career victory which is a very impressive number. Still this participation from Gilbert’s end seems desperate as team Lotto-Soudal had to cope and adapt as Arnaud De Lie had to leave the event due to a crash that happened at the opening stage.
After the race, Philippe Gilbert said:
This victory comes with a lot of emotions, it’s been a while since I took a win. But I clearly haven’t forgotten how to throw my arms in the air.
We are here with a strong team and we were aiming for a good overall result and stage wins with Arnaud De Lie, amongst others. Unfortunately he was forced to abandon in stage 1 so we had to adapt our racing strategy a bit. And so it was done. The team rode a perfect race today and I was able to finish it off at the end.
This win proved very beneficial for Gilbert as he got a 10-second time bonus and also moved him to the overall second position. A victory like this also moves him closer to Arvid de Kleijn (Human Powered Health), the stage 1 winner.
Everything is still to play for. Tomorrow we might get another bunch sprint but Saturday’s stage on and around Mont Cassel will be crucial. I know the climb from Gent-Wevelgem and it will obviously be a hard day. But with six Lotto Soudal riders still within ten seconds on GC, we still have several cards to play.
This victory seems like a big personal achievement for Gilbert, as his last victory came at the 2019 edition of Vuelta a España. Times were good before the pandemic, but then he switched teams from Quickstep to Lotto-Soudal. He even suffered from knee problems which were due to a fractured patella during the 2020 Tour de France. All of this took a very heavy toll on him, he then announced his retirement last month. He will be leaving behind an impressive legacy.
These wins are also going to benefit Lotto-Soudal a lot. A singular victory in the ProSeries 4 Jours of Dunkerque is equal to two stage wins of Giro d’Italia. So if their rides stack up a lot of victories, then Lotto-Soudal can easily move up within the WorldTour Team rankings.
Featured Image Via YouTube/Cycling Pro Net