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Could Philippe Gilbert win all five Monument Classics?

Philippe Gilbert holding his bike in the air after winning the 2017 Tour of Flanders
Joe Robinson
9 Mar 2018

After a two-year contract extension, Philippe Gilbert harbours dream of Paris-Roubaix and Milano-San Remo glory

Victory at the 2017 Tour of Flanders meant Philippe Gilbert joined Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) as the most successful rider across all five Monuments in the current pro peloton. Now with an extended contract at Quick-Step Floors with an extra two-years, Gilbert looks to complete the Monument set in a mission he has coined 'Project 5'.

The 35-year-old experienced a resurgent first season with Quick-Step Floors, winning the Tour of Flanders and Amstel Gold Race alongside a stage at the Tour de Suisse and the overall at the Three Days of De Panne.

Gilbert will now look to add Paris-Roubaix and Milano-San Remo to his extensive palmarès that also includes Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Il Lombardia. The Belgian cited this chance of winning all five Monuments as reason to his contract extension.

'I am sure I can still win some big races and that I will get my chances. It would be a dream come true to win races like Paris-Roubaix and Milano-San Remo with this team,' Gilbert said.

'That is also one of the reasons why I wanted to sign for two more years, to build up and increase my chances.'

The ambitions of Gilbert are among some of the biggest that can be harboured in professional road cycling. If Gilbert were to complete the Monument set, he would join a very elite club.

Only three riders have managed to take all five of cycling's biggest one day races, with all being compatriots of Gilbert. Rik Van Looy and Roger De Vlaeminck hold this accolade with Eddy Merckx.

The fact that only three riders - all considered greats of the sport - have managed this feat underlines its sheer difficulty. With the make-up of the five races all being fundamentally different, having a rider able to win all has been rare.

The unrelenting speed of Paris-Roubaix usually undoes those who climb to victory in Lombardy with the hills of Liege being too much for the sprinters who take Milan-San Remo.

Gilbert has clearly demonstrated his potential to write himself into the annals of history, but the odds remain firmly stacked against him. Coming close to victory in San Remo in the past, it could be that the chances for Gilbert have passed.

However this has not stopped the former World Champion harbouring these ambitions 

His biggest obstacle will be that of his team's dense Classics roster. Quick-Step Floors prides itself on the fact that multiple riders in its team could win any of the classics at any edition, with Milan-San Remo and Roubaix being no exception.

Gilbert's teammate Julian Alaphilippe finished on the podium of the 2017 Milan-San Remo, and team sprinter Fernando Gaviria entered the race as bookie's favourite. With these options, it makes it hard to see Gilbert taking La Primavera.

Beyond San Remo lies Paris-Roubaix, which is maybe the hardest single day of racing in the professional calendar. Taking on the cobbles of Northern France, Roubaix has often proven itself as a dream crusher. However, Gilbert has stated that 'sometimes people exaggerate about how tough Roubaix is.'

With a pan-flat course, the style of racing may not suit the Wallon, with Gilbert characteristically performing best on short and steep climbs. Additionally, Gilbert will find himself competing with the likes of former winner Niki Terpstra and Zdenek Stybar within his own team.

Yet this competition within the team is healthy according to Gilbert and acts as a catalyst getting in to the shape he needs.

'With the press I may be the main guy but on the bike it is completely different. You have to battle to fight the team and yourself, and we always push ourselves.' Gilbert admitted.

'If you are the best rider at Quick-Step, you will definitely have a chance at winning the race.'

This year will be defining season in the career of Philippe Gilbert. These harboured ambitions are certainly encouraged, but remain highly unlikely. If Gilbert could pull it off, he would have to be remembered as one of the greats.