The 36-year-old Belgian became the ninth rider to have won at least four different Monuments
It was written in the stars: there couldn’t have been any better venue for Deceuninck – Quick-Step, a team who has become synonymous with the Classics, to celebrate our 700th victory than the iconic André-Pétrieux Velodrome, where after 257 kilometers which featured 6 076 000 cobblestones making up for a total of 29 pavé sectors, Philippe Gilbert raised his arms in the air and celebrated one of the finest wins of his career.
For Deceuninck – Quick-Step, it was another masterclass, as our team placed three more riders in the top 10: Belgian Champion Yves Lampaert, who finished third, Florian Sénéchal (sixth and the best Frenchman at the end of the day) and Zdenek Stybar, who came home eighth and recorded his sixth top 10 finish in seven Paris-Roubaix participations.
“I am extremely happy! I was disappointed after Flanders, but in the week leading to Roubaix I returned to training and focused on Roubaix. I came into the race with pressure, because I was very motivated to overcome what had happened last Sunday and go for the win, especially as I felt that I had good legs. It’s hard to believe what I’ve done today, it’s something really special and it will take a few days to realise what has happened and what I’ve achieved”, said the seventh oldest rider in history to win Paris-Roubaix.
The 117th edition of Paris-Roubaix started from Compiègne and was a fast and windy one, with a breakaway going clear more than 70 kilometers into the race. Tim Declercq and Yves Lampaert were extremely active and helped the move forge a 30-second gap which put pressure on the peloton, who had to work hard in order to nullify it ahead of the iconic Arenberg Forest, the symbol of the “Queen of the Classics” since 1968.
Before entering the first five-star rated sector of the day, Deceuninck – Quick-Step lost Iljo Keisse, a key player up until that point, after the experienced Belgian hit some traffic furniture and had to abandon. Later examinations revealed that Iljo had suffered a complex left elbow fracture, which requires surgery, that will take place at the Herentals hospital.
Arenberg reduced the bunch to less than 50 riders, including all the remaining Deceuninck – Quick-Step members, but the real action got ignited only on the Beuvry to Orchies segment, where Philippe Gilbert was among the three men to respond to a big attack of Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin), inside 70 kilometers to go. On the run-in to the infamous Mons-en-Pévèle, everything came back together, but another brutal acceleration saw eight men extricate themselves from the bunch.
Gilbert was again there, as was Yves Lampaert, and the Deceuninck – Quick-Step duo cooperated with the other six riders in the move, carrying a one-minute lead onto the final cobblestone stretches. On the brutal Carrefour de l’Arbre, Philippe and Yves took turns to attack, wearing down the remaining riders, but it was on Gruson – the sector made famous by a crash of Bernard Hinault at the beginning of the ‘80s – that the group split, leaving only Philippe and Politt in the lead.
Just as Lampaert was accelerating and distancing his remaining companions, riding to a deserved podium finish, the front duo – who worked smoothly together – where entering the velodrome, where Gilbert blew past the German with 150 meters remaining, sprinting to his fifth victory in a Monument, after those at Ronde van Vlaanderen (2017), Liège–Bastogne–Liège (2011) and Il Lombardia (2009, 2010).
“I knew that joining Deceuninck – Quick-Step would be an important step in my career and I am really happy and proud that I’m a member of the Wolfpack. I am the kind of rider who likes new challenges, this motivates me, and here I found plenty of these: from winning Ronde or Roubaix to winning Isbergues, which was a race that was missing from my palmares”, Philippe told the media after netting the team’s 19th Monument. “That’s why after today and the celebration we will have this evening, I will reset my mind and focus on the Ardennes Classics, where I hope that the squad’s formidable spring will continue.”
Photo credit: © Tim De Waele/ Getty Image