Former World Champion Philippe Gilbert has forecast a success-studded future for his fellow Belgian and current rainbow jersey holder Remco Evenepoel after the two rode their last event together at Binche-Chimay-Binche in Belgium on Tuesday.
The winner of four of the five Monuments and numerous Classics as well as the UCI Road World Championships and stages in all three Grand Tours, Gilbert described his last race on Belgian soil, and Evenepoel’s first in the rainbow jersey, as being like a symbolic “handover of power between champions.”
The 40-year-old will take part in Paris-Bourges on Thursday, before completing his road racing career at Paris-Tours on Sunday, which he has won twice.
But the Lotto Soudal leader took the opportunity at the finish at Binche to run the rule briefly over Evenepoel, and pay tribute to a rider that has succeeded him as Belgium’s most recent winner of the World Championships and of the Monument held in Gilbert’s home region of the Ardennes: Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
“There was a lot of emotion involved, and that’s normal. It’s not every day that you have moments like this,” Gilbert said afterwards.
“There was a nice rapport with the public, all the symbolism of having Remco as World Champion, ten years after me, as if it was a handover of power between two champions.”
“I personally spent a lot of time in my top years going from race to race without really enjoying them in full. But now, in these last races, I can enjoy them.”
Sixth at Binche-Chimay-Binche after taking part in a late break, Gilbert had been brought to the startline alongside Evenepoel for a photocall before the race started. And he was much in demand again by media, fans and race organisers at the finish.
“Remco symbolises the new generation of Belgians”, said the 2012 world champion.
“The future looks bright. Remco is going to win many nice races. I’m glad I got to ride next to him in the peloton. His very first as World Champion, my very last Belgian race: this is an image for life.”