Bettina Gilbert opens her heart for Philippe’s 40th birthday: “I can’t imagine it all day at home”

This Tuesday, Philippe Gilbert will turn 40 years old. On this occasion, Bettina, his wife, reveals the hidden side of the champion.

Bettina, won’t we see each other this Tuesday in the departure village of Dunkirk?

“I wanted to come, be there for Philippe’s birthday and follow the stage that must be nice, but I couldn’t. I see that it’s very difficult to book a direct flight from home. The same for the train. I have the impression very much .that there are fewer than before. So I will go on July 10 on arrival at Châtel “.

How did you and Philippe meet?

“I was married to a cyclist (Julien El Fares) from whom I separated in 2015. So I met Philippe from the paddocks. Cycling is a small environment, you know. We knew each other without really knowing each other. I remember that The day she posted a photo of herself during the Tour de Suisse on Instagram, even though she wasn’t very present on social media, I saw her and liked her because she looked very pretty. get in touch with me … He talked for a whole period before approaching. “

Very quickly, at the beginning of your relationship, he reached one of the peaks of his career winning Paris-Roubaix …

“In fact, in June 2018 we had approached and a month later the kneecap was broken in the Tour de France. This injury strengthened our bond because I supported him as much as I could. During this period I was very present. he. It could be said that I was in his bed from the beginning. A few months later, he won the GP Isbergues and continued, in April, with the Paris-Roubaix. “

When you spend a lot of time in the cycling world, how does it feel when your partner wins the northern hell?

“I’ve always liked cycling and in particular Paris-Roubaix. I admired this race. So seeing Philippe’s victory gave me very strong emotions. The sport offers a lot in general, but that was even stronger for me. “Let’s just say that by winning the Queen of the Classics, Philippe gave me a great memory.”

Then there was a very difficult period with, in particular, the Covid pandemic. How did you live all this?

“Sometimes there were complicated passages as in all couples. And then, for cyclists living in Monaco, it was very difficult because they couldn’t train, unlike what was done in Belgium. So Phil couldn’t ride. It was spinning like a lion inside a cage. I remember a Philippe who disappeared. It was clear. He was very nervous. Also, when there is no competition, it is difficult for an athlete to set goals, but he needs them to move forward. “

Has this pandemic strengthened your ties?

“Yes. For the first time, we lived together all the time. We learned to discover ourselves, to understand each other better. Not well. In addition, we had to control weight gain. We had to weigh everything. Philippe was eating. We had to adapt, yes. The hardest thing was not to overdo the food, to have fun eating. rhythm, with sport, which we have tried to respect. Finally, he saw his retirement come at a gallop and made him nervous. He was not sure how long he could get back on the bike. “

What role do you play in times of doubt? Does it reassure him?

“Yeah. But it’s not always easy because you don’t always know how athletes perceive things, or what they need. We see that from the outside. I, when he hesitated during the pandemic, went to the essentials. I reminded him. of everything he had already won and done in his career. I told him I had nothing else to prove. But it’s not always enough because a high-level athlete tends to want more. “

Philippe has a hyperactive side …

(She cuts.) “So I assure you: he sleeps more than I do. The thing is, he has the ability to take micro naps everywhere, on the plane, on the train, at home. I’m jealous. Philippe. he is an early riser who takes an easy nap. “

Philippe is very involved in cycling, he is not content to be just a runner.

“It’s something I’m very grateful for. I have the same profile as him. That’s why we get along so well. It’s very motivating for me to share my life with someone who multiplies their activities.”

It’s been a year and a half since you had a little Valentine’s Day. What kind of father is Philippe?

“It’s the same as with his two boys (Editor’s note: from a first marriage): a hen father, or a sweet father, as we say here. As much as it may be hard on the bike, it can both to be.

When you met Philippe, what did you think of him?

“It was exhaling something quite human. It had an attractive personality. I also discovered that it has a strong character. It seems that this is typical of the Ardennes. At first, it was also like … a lot of athletes, meaning you have to to do everything for them: the suitcase … He has also improved from this point of view, but when we met, he met someone who planted his face in. -he has been crushed quickly (laughs) Sometimes, between him and me, he sparks.

How do you imagine his post career?

“That’s a good question. I can’t imagine it all day at home. Even for me, it would be tricky if we didn’t have activities each. But with all the proposals he receives, I don’t care about his. Then of the race. He will be busy “.

We can imagine that he receives many offers in the world of cycling.

“It’s safe. Anyway, I can’t imagine Philippe outside of the cycling world. He’s unimaginable. I don’t see him leaving the industry. He’s one of those people born to work in it. Philippe is made for cycling, and to make progress. “

Where do you imagine your common future? In Manosque, where do you live or in Monaco, where do you live?

“We don’t know yet. He has his children in Monaco and my son goes to school in Manosque. The only certainty is that we will keep at least one pied-à-terre in Monaco.”

What memories do you have of your honeymoon last spring? However, Philippe climbed Mont Ventoux twice on this occasion. It is quite original …

“We knew we wouldn’t have a chance to go to the Caribbean for ten days because Philippe was preparing for the Tour de France. So we spent some time at the Luberon. But those two climbs are all Philippe’s. Even on holiday, he he can’t get off his bike. “

And what memories do you have of your wedding last May?

“It was a total success because our two families got along really well right away. I felt a lot of love that day. When we all broke up on Sunday, there were a lot of tears. I love your family. My relationship with she is very important to me. There is a great chemistry between us all. “

Can we ask you what Philippe will give for his 40th birthday?

“Philippe is a great hunter. So I’m preparing a little surprise for him so he can travel and practice his passion at the same time. And I hope to be able to accompany him to enjoy it as well.”

Last year, he almost threw in the towel during the Tour de France. How did you experience this episode?

“It was terrible. By the sound of his voice or the features of his face, you know if the day was good or bad. Sometimes you have to talk to him. Sometimes you don’t have to bother him because he’s not in a disposition to “They are characteristics of his personality. I met him and there I understood immediately that we had to talk to him. I told him to hold on, to finish for him.”

By contrast, the last Liege-Bastogne-Liege was a great moment for him. What memory do you keep?

“I wasn’t surprised by his popularity. Since I’ve always ridden a bike, I knew Philippe was an icon in Belgium. I suspected it would be his party at La Redoute. That said, that week he was supposed to bury the “My life as a young man in Spain. All the plane tickets were already paid for. But I felt that Philippe wanted me by his side. So we canceled everything and took my friends to spend the weekend.” We ended up in Liège. We did it. A few breweries in town, we went to a restaurant and then we went to join Philippe’s family in the race. And in La Redoute, it’s hard to get bored. “

What do you think of Belgium?

“I love this country, its landscapes, its culture, the humor of its people. Honestly, if the weather was better more often, I could live there without any problems. The Belgians are festive people, who likes to go out when it’s sunny … there are events “.

Do you like to ride a bike but would you like to practice it professionally?

“It’s a discipline I would have liked. But when I see the investment it requires, it wouldn’t have been possible to live with a man like Philippe while I myself was a professional cyclist.”

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