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The 39-year-old former world champion won‘t chase easy victories. After 20 years in the peloton, the Belgian targets a good result in a big race. He won four out of five monuments in his career, which puts him in the company of only five other riders who have been able to achieve an almost clean sweep.

In an interview for the Procycling magazine, Gilbert said: “I’ve spent maybe 90 per cent of my career at the WorldTour level, against the best riders, and this will not change. I don’t want to do small races just to get a win. If I’m in the top five at Nieuwsblad against the best, I will be happy, I want to fight with them.”

However, the Belgian has not won a race since he moved back to Lotto-Soudal in 2020. The pandemic and an injury definitely played their part in the decline of his form.

“It has been two difficult years, two years to forget. I hope to have a better last one. I don’t like to be in this situation, and be behind but you have to deal with it and I take this as experience also. I was working a lot but I was far back behind where I wanted to be at the start. Last winter, I was really struggling, and with my age, it doesn’t help. It was really hard to come back into the game, and then the season was so quick again.”

Gilbert has won a lot of races in his career including the four monuments – Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Flanders, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Il Lombardia. In 2011, he won 17 races, which made him undoubtedly the best of them all that year. He also put his mark on the La Vuelta, winning seven stages during his career. He is a proven all-rounder and is fond of the ‘up-and-coming’ all-rounder from Slovenia as well.

“Pogačar is the exception,” he said. “I saw Eddy Merckx speaking about him. Eddy has heard a lot of times that the ‘new Eddy Merckx’ is here, he has heard that every five years. I think only now we can maybe speak about it. He’s able to win grand tours, big classics, and win from February to October. Win with big gaps, not by seconds but by minutes. In Pogačar, I think we will find a rider that you only find fifty years or so.”

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