Boonen confirmed for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Gilbert to miss race
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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Boonen confirmed for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Gilbert to miss race

by Shane Stokes at 9:03 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
 
Belgians plot their preferred racing schedules prior to big spring goals

Tom BoonenAlthough he has missed out on his traditional early season programme due to injury, being forced to scratch from the Tour de San Luis and Tour of Qatar as a result and only starting his racing in the Tour of Oman, Tom Boonen has decided to compete in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

The Belgian’s Omega Pharma Quick Step team has confirmed that he will ride the semi-Classic race, using it as part of his buildup towards the top Classics.

Boonen is still recovering from the lingering effects of the infection he suffered to his elbow in January, but the operation he underwent then has helped avoid what could have been a disastrous outcome. He said in recent days that he could even have lost his arm if he hadn’t had the wound treated when he did.

The Belgian finished second in last year’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, losing out to Sep Vanmarcke, but went on to dominate the northern Classics. He won the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen – Harelbeke, took Gent-Wevelgem and then pulled off the rare double of the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix.

This time round, his performance in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad may be a little quieter, but fifth and seventh on stages of the Tour of Oman show that he is still in decent shape.

Meanwhile compatriot Philippe Gilbert has decided to give the race a miss this time round. The world road race champion has competed already in the Santos Tour Down Under and the Tour of Oman, netting third on a stage of the Australian event and seventh on a stage of the more recent race, and he and his team have planned a different route towards his Classic goals.

“It's 100 percent sure,” BMC Racing Team directeur sportif John Lelangue confirmed to the Het Nieuwsblad newspaper, speaing about his non-partcipation. “Greg Van Avermaet and Thor Hushovd are our priorities. We have to make choices, Philippe can’t ride everything.”

Hushovd appears to be back in form after having a disapponting 2012 season. He won stage one of the Tour du Haut Var yesterday, while Van Avermaet was second on stage three of the Tour of Oman.

Lelangue outlined the world champion’s likely schedule. “We have changed Gilbert’s programme compared to last year,” he said. “He began earlier in Australia and has now been in Oman. He will go to Paris-Nice via the GP Lugano in preparation for Milan-Sanremo.”

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