As of late, there’s been some rumblings that the Deceuninck Quick-Step Wolf Pack had lost a step. Despite early season dominance, they nozzed up Flanders and found themselves in a bit of a trough. But that was erased as Philippe Gilbert powered through to win his 5th monument, quench a bit of an early season Belgian drought and re-establish DQS as the dominant force in springtime cycling.
Gilbert outmanned Nils Politt, who nearly survived the Werner Herzog jinx, as the two entered the velodrome alone, with Yves Lampaert following up the duo for a podium. Sep Vanmarcke was 4th, ahead of a Peter Sagan that looked utterly gassed by the finish.
Nils Politt and Philippe Gilbert were clearly the two strongest riders in the peloton today. No clear breakaway made it early on, with a small group of Casper Pedersen, Mads Wurtz Schmidt and Jurgen Roelandts getting as much as 40 seconds, but were victim to an extremely fast opening gambit. A second powerful move was driven by Nils Politt, Matteo Trentin and about 20 or 30 others with 160 km to go, but it too was quickly roped back, and the peloton basically stayed together until the cobblestones started.
A group of Gilbert, Nils Politt and Rudiger Selig finally got clear shortly after the feed-zone, as we watched spectacular footage of Wout Van Aert saying “Hold My Abbey Ale” to Mathieu Van Der Poel, as he went off-roading, chased, flatted, chased, crashed, chased, switched bikes, chased and eventually found his way to the front group, riding up to Gilbert and Politt (who by then had dropped Selig). They added Sep Vanmarcke, Peter Sagan and Yves Lampaert, and the race was on.
Gilbert attacked a few times before being marked in succession by Sagan, who as it turns out was burning his matches. Finally, it was Nils Politt who put in a dig, bringing along only Gilbert, as Sagan ran out of gas, Van Aert ran even harder out of gas, Vanmarcke struggled with some mechanical problems, and Lampaert was playing the good dog Wolf Packer. Ultimately, Lampaert’s presence as the sole living chaser allowed Gilbert to force Politt to the front, offering him prime position for a heads up sprint and a famous victory in the velodrome. Senechal won the sprint for 6th, with Stybar coming in 8th, capping off a giant DQS middle-finger directed toward all of the recent Quick-Step-Has-Lost-A-Step hot takes in recent weeks.
Gilbert has now won 5 monuments, including two in Lombardia, and one in LBL, Flanders and here. He is also a World Champion. That leaves only a victory in Milano-San Remo before he is forever the answer to a pub trivia question, and he’ll probably win a gold medal in the next Olympics, because why not.