Philippe Gilbert has said he will retire at the end of the 2022 season, at which point he will be 40 years old.
The 38-year-old will have raced 20 seasons as a professional cyclist when he retires and will return for his penultimate year in the peloton at Flèche Wallonne after a short break from racing.
“At some point you have to stop. My career has lasted twenty years and there is more to life than just cycling. In my life I have made many sacrifices and now it is time to enjoy, for example, my family,” Gilbert told radio station RTBF.
“I needed a physical and mental break, but now I’m fine again. I was able to train well and I am happy to be able to return at Flèche Wallonne. I would also have liked to ride the Amstel Gold Race but that was still too early in my training schedule.”
Gilbert says he underestimated the effect that two “serious” knee injuries had on him physically, racing through the pain to compete at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Paris-Nice, Milan – Sanremo and Gent-Wevelgem earlier this year.
“I have had two serious knee injuries and underestimated the effect on my body. I paid the toll for the many miles I rode despite the enormous pain in my knee. I was in a lot of pain for months and my body said stop. The decision to take a break was the right one. I hope to return with a better feeling,” he said.
“Physically I am not bad, but I am aware that I have missed preparatory races such as the Tour of the Basque Country. Most of all, I want to have fun and try to get as far as possible. Without pressure, I may be able to race freely. I hope to be there in the finals of these beautiful Classics.”
Gilbert will line up at Liège-Bastogne-Liège after Flèche Wallonne, and should be on the start line of the summer’s Tour de France.
His retirement announcement means he will only have one final chance to win Milan – Sanremo and complete his set of five Monument victories, having finished 72nd at the 2021 edition.