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Gilbert ‘getting stronger every day’ after quitting Tour de France with knee injury

Lotto Soudal’s Philippe Gilbert may be able to return to competition a little sooner than at first feared after the Belgian crashed out of the Tour de France on the opening stage in Nice. The 38-year-old broke his kneecap in the fall, but managed to finish the stage, and, having taken a week off, is now already back on his bike and doing gym work.

On Thursday, Gilbert tweeted a picture of him doing some leg lifts, accompanied by the message: “Very happy with a great fitness workout today. Getting stronger every day!”

At first, Gilbert feared that he may have repeated – or antagonised – the injury to the same knee sustained in a crash at the 2018 Tour, when he fell on the descent of the Col de Portet d’Aspet. However, he told French radio station Europe 1 earlier this week that the fracture of his patella wasn’t as serious as his injury from two years ago, and that he was back on his bike for some light training as early as last Saturday, just a week after the crash, according to Het Nieuwsblad.

“The goal now is to slowly build up to trips of five, six hours,” he said. “If the pain is tolerable after six hours and my knee doesn’t double in size from the effort, then I can start thinking about competition again. But I’m taking it day by day, and can’t say when that will be.”

Gilbert’s teammate John Degenkolb also left the Tour after the opening stage, finishing outside the time limit after crashing on what was a wet and treacherous day, when a number of other riders fell, including race favourite Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ). Lotto Soudal nevertheless bounced back, despite only being left with six riders, and have so far won two stages courtesy of Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan.

“Of course, I was disappointed that my Tour was over so quickly,” Gilbert added. “It’s been a special year, with everything surrounding COVID-19 and the weird calendar. We had to be patient to resume competition, and I went to the Tour de France with confidence, but then it ended after 100 kilometres due to a crash, which was annoying, but you have to look ahead.”

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