Former world champion Philippe Gilbert has been left off his team’s squad for the Tour de France, a year after crashing out of the three-week race.
The Belgian rider, who fractured his knee after crashing in the Pyrenees last year while descending from the Col de Portet-d’Aspet, is thought to be a poor fit in a team with Julian Alaphilippe and sprinter Elia Viviani.
Gilbert crashed last year on the same descent where Italian rider Fabio Casartelli died during the 1995 Tour. He continued the stage and reached the finish but was later forced him to abandon the race.
The 36-year-old veteran wrote on Twitter: ”It’s with great disappointment I have to announce that I won’t be participating in this year’s (at)LeTour. After my crash and early exit last year I was very motivated to return this year. It would have been my 10th Tour, but unfortunately I will have to postpone those plans.”
“With such a strong roster available, it was really difficult to pick just eight riders and it is a shame that people like Philippe Gilbert have to miss out, but we feel that this is a really balanced team,” said sport director Tom Steels on Wednesday. “We have three leaders looking for a mix of stage wins and making an impact on the GC, which isn’t easy to mix, but with this line-up and the experience we have we can go far on a lot of stages. We feel this team gives us a great balance and a chance on a lot of stages.”
Gilbert won the Paris-Roubaix in April, Milano-Sanremo being the last Monument missing from his palmares now.
Enric Mas, making his Tour de France debut, will lead Deceuninck-Quick-Step in the GC and will see support from Belgian veteran Dries Devenyns while Alaphilippe will have a free hand to light up the race. Last year, Alaphilippe won two stages en route to the King of the Mountains jersey.
“Julian is a little bit of a one-man army, a winner who last year took the climber’s jersey in spectacular fashion. With him you are sure to be surprised,” Steels said. “There are some stages, even in the first week, that really suit him, and when the course does suit him, he is one of the best in the world, so we will look for stage wins on those days.”
“[Mas] is our GC guy, but at the same time, this is his Tour de France debut and while he proved in the Vuelta that he can maintain his condition for three weeks, this is the Tour and it’s about learning,” Steels continued. “It is hard to explain what this race is until you have been part of it. Everything is harder in the Tour and he needs to understand that. He will need to be in a good position, even on the flatter stages, which are faster and more chaotic than in other races.
Deceuninck-Quick-Step for the Tour de France: Julian Alaphilippe, Elia Viviani, Enric Mas, Kasper Asgreen, Max Richeze, Michael Mørkøv, Yves Lampaert, Dries Devenyns.