• Philippe Gilbert in action at the 2019 Adriatica Ionica Race. (Getty)Source: Getty
There is very little Philippe Gilbert has not given to pro cycling and at 37, the Belgian feels he still has a lot more competitive juice left in the tank signing a three-year contract with Lotto Soudal from 2020.
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Cycling Central
22 Aug 2019 - 9:10 AM  UPDATED 22 Aug 2019 - 11:46 AM

There isn't much he hasn't won in terms of races which suit his intelligent, aggressive and punchy style. He is, in fact, the prototypical Classics rider.

His 2011 season will go down as perhaps the benchmark for all future greats to aspire to. Strade Bianche, Brabantse Pijl, Amstel Gold Race, La Flèche Wallonne, Liège–Bastogne–Liège and more, including a national championship and a stage win which led to a stint in yellow at the Tour de France.

There was a lot more before that legendary season and even more after, though his strike rate declined a little as the years went on. But 2017 netted him the Tour of Flanders and just this year came perhaps his biggest win, Paris-Roubaix - his fifth monument.

With all of that to look back on over a quiet beer, why continue?

Gilbert was offered only a one year contract with his existing team, Deceuninck-Quick Step, and with Roubaix now listed on his palmares going out on top would have made complete sense.

Clearly, the passion was still there so it was back to the future for another three years with Lotto Soudal, or as we knew it in that epic 2011 season, Silence-Lotto.

“I still wanted to race, without any doubt." Gilbert said of his move down the road to Lotto Soudal HQ. "When I learned that I could prolong at my current team for only one year, it was clear to me that I wanted to change.

"The clearest interest and project was the one of Lotto Soudal. Of course, I know the team, a lot of riders and staff are no strangers to me, I know the spirit and I will again be part of a Belgian project.”

Philippe Gilbert wins the 2019 Paris-Roubaix.

The Gilbert rationale is simple. Get some of the old band back together, jam a little and with that should come a few more wins on tour to pad out the palmares for the day he really does rack the bike for the last time.

"I achieved my first big successes together with sports manager Marc Sergeant," Gilbert noted. "Primarily, my goals are to be found in the one-day races and the big Classics.

"Lotto Soudal gets stronger and stronger, we need to fight against the absolute top teams, not by expressing big ambitions beforehand, but by getting results.”

There is an arrogance which comes with being such a prolific winner and Gilbert has it in spades. But he's also clear-eyed about what he can offer to his old outfit - leadership by example.

"I want to try to lift the team to a higher level, by performing myself but also by making other riders better. It gives me just as much pleasure if they would show themselves important or if they would be able to win."

So what does it take to be a rider like Philippe Gilbert? The raw material of talent, obviously. But it's work ethic which separates the merely good from the truly great.

“Discipline and joy are the key factors to stay a pro cyclist for so long," Gilbert said. "I still leave for training at the same hour, I do what I have to do, I don’t skip training rides.

"That and a strong body help to stay competitive at a high level."

Gilbert will be next at the Vuelta a España, where he has claimed five career stage victories and perhaps add yet another.

Joining him in the Deceuninck-Quick Step squad for the Vuelta will be Eros Capecchi (ITA), Rémi Cavagna (FRA), Tim Declercq (BEL), Fabio Jakobsen (NED), James Knox (GBR), Maximiliano Richeze (ARG) and Zdenek Stybar (CZE).