Belgians ready to take on the Tour of Belgium
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Monday, May 21, 2012

Belgians ready to take on the Tour of Belgium

by Ben Atkins at 10:39 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour of Belgium
Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Lotto-Belisol teams plus Philippe Gilbert preparing to do battle in their home race

philippe gilbertThe Belgian teams are readying themselves for the biggest stage race in their home country, the Ronde van België/Tour de Belgique, which starts on Wednesday, May 23rd. The five-day race, which was won by Philippe Gilbert (then Omega Pharma-Lotto, now BMC Racing) last year, is an important one for the home-based teams, even though much of the cycling world is still watching the Giro d’Italia.

Gilbert himself has had a less-than-stellar season to date, by his own incredibly high standards, and has yet to post a victory. 2012 has all been so different to last season, when he had been virtually unbeaten up to this point, including an incredible Ardennes ‘quadruple’, in which he won the Brabantse Pijl (aka Flèche Brabaçonne), the Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège in the space of twelve days.

A third place in this year’s Flèche showed an improvement in his form, but since Liège, Gilbert has been training at home as he prepares for his summer objectives.

“It was good for me to spend a month at home, to be able to work hard and start a new base and build new form and condition,” said the Belgian champion.

While he will doubtless be keen to show off his driekleur jersey in his final month of its possession [although he may well win it back again on June 24th - ed], Gilbert realises that the flat, straight time trial stage between Turnhout and Arendonk on stage four will make it very tough to successfully defend his overall title; this, despite being the current Belgian time trial champion.

“I know against the time trial specialists, I will lose time,” he admitted. “The last stage is tricky in the area of Huy, so if I see that I can't aim for the general classification, I will try to win a stage.”

Omega Pharma-Quick Step will be heading to the race with the twin objectives of taking stages and doing well in the general classification. Much of the team will be based on that which rode so powerfully in the recent Quatre Jours de Dunkerque - including Cassel stage winner and second overall Zdenek Stybar - along with World time trial champion Tony Martin, who made a strong return to racing in the Rund um den Finanzplatz Eschborn-Frankfurt.

“We are at the start with a strong team," said Omega Pharma-Quick Step directeur sportif Tom Steels. “We have a strong and complete team for the sprint but even for the GC. Normally the race will be decided in the last two stages. Even Tony Martin will be at the start. It will be a good test for Tony prior to the next races and the Tour de France. But we can count also on other riders able to contest stages and show their skills for the GC.”

Lotto-Belisol will also go to the race with big ambitions, with German sprinter André Greipel beginning his preparation for the Tour de France. The Belgian ProTeam’s eight-man roster has yet to be announced, but is to include Jürgen Roelandts, who makes his return to top class racing after suffering a fractured vertebrae in a crash in the Tour Down Under.

The 26-year-old was forced to sit out the entire Classics season, leaving the team leaderless in some of the biggest races of the spring, but successfully completed the non-UCI Heiste Pijl race on Saturday, placing fourth from a four-man breakaway.

Tour of Belgium/Ronde van België/Tour de Belgique (2.HC)

May 23rd: stage 1 - Mechelen to Bugenhout, 162km
May 24th: stage 2 - Lochristi to Knokke-Heist, 170.7km
May 25th: stage 3 - Knokke-Heist to Beveren, 173.5km
May 26th: stage 4 - Turnhout to Arendonk ITT, 20.5km
May 27th: stage 5 - Clavier to Engis, 208.5km

Omega Pharma-Quick Step team for the the Ronde van België/Tour de Belgique
Andrew Fenn, Iljo Keisse, Tony Martin, Gert Steegmans, Zdenek Stybar, Niki Terpstra, Matteo Trentin and Guillaume Van Keirsbulck

Lotto-Belisol team for the Ronde van België/Tour de Belgique (eight from ten)
Sander Cordeel, Jens Debusschere, Gert Dockx, André Greipel, Greg Henderson, Maarten Neyens, Jürgen Roelandts, Marcel Sieberg, Jurgen Van De Walle and Frederik Willems

BMC Racing Team for the Ronde van België/Tour de Belgique
Adam Blythe, Marcus Burghardt, Philippe Gilbert, Martin Kohler, Klaas Lodewyck, Amaël Moinard, Manuel Quinziato and Michael Schär


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