Philippe Gilbert, the last Belgian to conquer the “Hell of the North”, looked back on that unforgettable day.
“Time is flying, but that victory still feels like it happened yesterday. I remember every detail and how everything went perfect that day. What gave me huge delight was that it came after an outstanding teamwork. Sometimes you can take big wins without actually making the race, but on that day, we shaped the race from start until finish, and for me that made my victory more special.
When I attacked for the first time with 70 kilometers to go, I did it because I felt strong and knew I could count on my teammates behind. When the group that included some of the other favourites came back, I was fortunate to have Yves there, as he was of great help. Then I attacked again, twice as a matter of fact, until I found myself in a perfect situation, at the front with just Politt for company.
Going into the velodrome I was quite nervous. It was the first time that I was sprinting on the track at the end of a race since turning pro. It had happened once or twice during my junior days, but that didn’t count. I knew I had the power and speed to do it, but I but I didn’t know how good Nils was, so it was a bit stressful and I began feeling the pressure as we approached the finish.
At the same time, I decided to make use of my experience on that moment. I had won some big races before, whereas Politt had less experience than me, and this worked into my favour. I can’t tell you all the emotions, the feelings, the thoughts I had after crossing the line first – o many there were – people congratulating me, fans roaring in the stands. It was incredible, pure joy.
I needed a couple of days after that win to realise what I had achieved. That win put me in the small group of riders – such as Sean Kelly or Louison Bobet – with victories in four different Monuments. It was a fantastic moment of my career, one that I will forever cherish.”
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