The Belgian Champion finished first overall at a stage race for the seventh time in his career after a strong all-around performance.
Philippe Gilbert made it 20 victories for Quick-Step Floors in 2017, after coming out on top at the 41st edition of Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, his last race before Ronde van Vlaanderen, where he will make his return after a five-year hiatus, part of a strong eight-man line-up.
Victorious on the tough opening stage, which included a double ascension of the famed Muur van Geraardsbergen, the 34-year-old extended his lead on the following day helped by a stunning ride of the Quick-Step Floors squad in the echelons, where the team blew the peloton to pieces, before capping off his impressive week with a composed display in the individual time trial.
The stage won by Luke Durbridge (Orica-Scott) saw two of the team's riders conclude in the top 10: former Junior World ITT Champion Marcel Kittel, who came fourth after finding early his flowing rhythm in the time trial and scorching the 14.2km-long course in 17:41, and Philippe Gilbert, seventh at the finish, which was more than enough to have him seal the overall win ahead of Matthias Brändle (Trek-Segafredo) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin).
"In a time trial is always a question of remaining focused before and during the race. Before rolling down the ramp, I got news of Marcel's result and this gave me extra motivation to do well. I was always in control while being out on the course and securing the victory here makes me very happy", said Philippe, only the second Belgian Champion in history to win Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde.
"Last year, Quick-Step Floors and Patrick Lefevere put their trust in me and I'm glad to bring home this victory and repay them for the confidence showed. Also, I must thank my teammates, because they kept me safe and rode their hearts out to make sure I'll win this race", continued Gilbert after claiming his seventh career stage race. "I think it was the right choice to prepare Ronde van Vlaanderen here and I'm really satisfied with how I felt and with the outcome. I'm motivated for Sunday and I look forward to this beautiful race. Hopefully, it will turn out to be another good one for our team."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele