Philippe Gilbert ended his racing profession at Paris-Excursions final weekend however his true farewell got here on Saturday, with a star-studded send-off at his ‘final experience’ occasion in Valkenburg.
Gilbert is Belgian however opted to host his farewell occasion over the Dutch border in Valkenburg to soak up the Cauberg, the climb that has marked his profession – scene of his World Championship victory in 2012 and central characteristic of the Amstel Gold Race, which he gained 4 occasions.
The 40-year-old raised his arms on the high after ‘successful’ an unofficial race forward of Fabio Jakobsen and Arnaud De Lie, in addition to outdated teammates corresponding to Thor Hushovd and Andre Greipel.
Gilbert joked that there have been no presents for him on the 65km route, however there was after all solely going to be one winner, and he raised his arms aloft alone on high of the Cauberg, as he had achieved a decade beforehand.
A number of hours beforehand, he had rolled across the outdated Worlds course, with over 1000 followers popping out to affix him.
Afterwards, there was a particular post-race podium ceremony, the place Gilbert was given a guard of honour from his fellow riders earlier than symbolically hanging his bike on a hook to mark the top of his 20-year profession.
“I could not have dreamed it higher… it was good,” Gilbert mentioned, the pouring rain doing nothing to dampen his spirits.
“When you’d requested me how I wished to finish my profession, I might have dreamed of a day like this.”
Gilbert then went off to bathe and don his tuxedo for a non-public dinner, that includes many figures who’ve marked his profession. Greipel and Hushovd had been amongst these to make important journeys to attend, from Germany and Norway repsectively, whereas Gilbert’s former boss at BMC Racing, Jim Ochowicz, flew over from the USA.
There was one other particular visitor in Eddy Merckx, who had made a shock visitor look on the rostrum. Riders included Niki Terpstra, Tim Declercq, Jurgen Roelandts, Julien Vermote, Johan Vansummeren, and Axel Merckx.
Gilbert thus introduced an official finish to a 20-year profession that featured 80 victories, together with his world title, 4 Amstels, and victories in 4 of the 5 Monuments: Tour of Flanders (2017), Paris-Roubaix (2019), Liège-Bastogne-Liège (2011), Il Lombardia (2009, 2010).
His victory at Liège got here as a part of his all-conquering 2011 marketing campaign, which noticed him do the Ardennes quardupple – Brabantse Pijl, Amstel, Flèche Wallonne, Liège – in addition to taking the opening stage of the Tour de France and the Belgian highway race and time trial titles. For good measure he additionally gained Strade Bianche, Clasica San Sebastian, and the GP de Quebec that yr.
You’ll be able to watch a video montage of the Gilbert’s ‘final experience’ occasion under.