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Philippe Gilbert: “Living in the Same Place with the Same People Was Something New to Me”

By Frantiska Blazkova

Enjoy another batch of highlights from our #Ride2Unite series, this time with the ‘King of the Classics’, Belgian road racer Philippe Gilbert. While the Covid-19 restrictions are slowly easing in Europe, the pandemic left (and is still leaving) a deep mark on the world and the cycling sphere is no different. With events and grand tours still being cancelled and postponed left, right and centre, we’re keeping our promise to keep the cycling community entertained and connected and you can look forward to more streams to come. See the rundown of no. 7 below.

Currently a rider for Team Lotto Soudal, Philippe Gilbert has a colourful history of teams (Quick-Step Floors, BMC) and wins (18-times Classics winner, UCI Road World Championship, the Amstel Gold Race, La Flèche Wallonne, Liège–Bastogne–Liège, Tour de Flanders and more) to his name. He’s known as one of the most versatile riders of today as he’s at home on both flat sprints and hilly climbs, which makes him a force to be reckoned with. Our regular livestream host, Laura Meseguer, a professional Eurosport reporter and sports journalist, queried Philippe about his diverse training techniques, getting used to a busy life suddenly coming at a full stop, peaking one’s performance at the right time, the importance of right leaders and teachers, career past, future goals and more.

Read more about Philippe in our previous introductory article.

The first question is always readily on hand – how did Philippe handle these last unusual few weeks and months? For him, the first good news after the lockdown eased was the possibility to ride outside and after that, it became easier to organize life back to “normal” as even the UCI’s race calendar started to be active again. “It was not easy to stay inside on home trainers, I was really happy to go out,” said Philippe, adding that he rides only in France and Monaco as he doesn’t want to travel to other countries just yet.

Laura was curious if there’s anything helpful in experiencing a situation like this. “I think we can all learn from it,” said Phillipe, adding that a lot of people will reconsider their hygienic and social habits, in his opinion, especially hand washing. “This is something we athletes already do, e.g. when we go to a team presentation where we meet a lot of people, we shake the hands of sometimes a few hundred people in a day and then you really clean your hands a lot. It was already in the protocol of the teams but now it’s for everyone.”

Philippe Gilbert pictured during the seventh stage of the Paris-Nice, Saturday 14 March 2020. © Profimedia

When asked what he learned during these weeks and if there was a change of perspective, Philippe honestly answered: “Living in the same place with the same people was something new for me, since I was 16 in the Junior category, I was always travelling, my school holidays were always at training camps. […] I’ve been travelling for the past 25 years and I’m almost 39, I’ve never been in the same bed for more than two weeks,” quipped Philippe. “In the beginning, it was not easy because I was so used to take the suitcase and jump into the aeroplane, in the car or on the train and go to another training or a race so the first thing to learn was just to stay. But when you have to stay with your family it’s also always good news.”

The first question from the audience concerned the second Cote de La Redoute comeback – Philippe smashed his home climb’s record on Strava just a few days ago, when he was finally allowed to fly home to his extended family, and it made quite the rounds online. He completed the climb, which is 1.6-km long with an average gradient of 9.5 per cent, in 4 minutes 25 seconds. The previous record-holder was Romain Bardet who had set a time of 4:42 before Gilbert knocked a whopping 17 seconds off the Frenchman’s time. But the stunning success didn’t last long. “Since then, two young guys from The Netherland came and beat me. So, now I’m in Monaco and the next time I’m going back to Belgium I’m gonna come again and go faster,” Philippe concluded with a laugh.

In the last quarter of the stream, Laura and Philippe strayed from current topics and got deeper down the memory lane. Specifically, Laura wanted to know whether he feels melancholic that lots of the teammates and cycling peers his age are already retiring. “No, we still have awesome guys of the same age, I think Koen de Kort is still racing. […] We’re not many left but still a few and it’s nice to still be competitive, like, when one of the guys does a nice result, I’m one of the first to send him a message and vice versa. We’re almost the last ones standing so it’s nice,” states Philippe with optimism.

See the full IG TV stream above. For the previous #Ride2Unite livestream with Jenny Rissveds, Swedish Cross-Country MTB Rider, Olympic and world champion, and an inspiration to all struggling to break through and find the strength to continue (not only) with their beloved sport, head over here.