Gilbert confirmed as leader of Belgian worlds team; Devolder, Van Avermaet and Leukemans also protected
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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Gilbert confirmed as leader of Belgian worlds team; Devolder, Van Avermaet and Leukemans also protected

by Shane Stokes at 8:08 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, World Championships
 
Omega Pharma Lotto seen as a major race favourite

Philippe GilbertOne of the big favourites for next month’s world road race championship has got the expected nod from the national team selectors. As a result, Philippe Gilbert will be the clear leader of the Belgian team.

The Omega Pharma Lotto rider is seen as one with a strong chance of success, both due to his strong performances in the past year and also because the course is thought suitable for a strong, explosive rider.

Gilbert’s recent stage win and spell in the red leader’s jersey in the Vuelta a España marks him out as one in form, even if his performances in recent days have been affected by injuries from a crash. He skipped the Tour de France in order to be in peak form for his autumn target, and will aim to be in the same condition which saw him take a remarkable run of victories in the Coppa Sabatini, the Giro del Piemonte, Paris-Tours and the Giro di Lombardia.

As he showed in the Amstel Gold race and again one week ago in Malaga, when he is on his top form nobody can stay with him when he puts the hammer down on power climbs.

Belgian team selector Carlo Bomans revealed the selection, and said that Gilbert would be backed by eight others. These are his Omega Pharma Lotto team-mates Mario Aerts, Jan Bakelants, Jürgen Roelandts and Greg Van Avermaet, as well as Stijn Devolder (Quick Step), Frederik Willems (Liquigas), Kevin De Weert (Quick Step) and Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil).

Bomans puts Gilbert at the head of that group, but has also named secondary leaders who will be protected if necessary. “Hopefully nothing happens to Gilbert, but I will nevertheless retain Devolder, Van Avermaet and Leukemans as alternatives in case they have to take over the role of Gilbert,” he said, according to l’Equipe.

Cornu and Devolder will do the Elite men’s time trial, while Grace Verbeke will contest the women’s event. She, Lieselot Decroix, Liesbet De Vocht, Sofie De Vuyst and Ludivine Henrion will go in the road race.

Six riders will also travel to Australia and ride the under 23 events there. The two riders for the time trial are Guillaume Van Keirsbulck and Arthur Vanoverberghe. The latter will double up by riding the road race, joining up with Laurens De Vreese, Yannick Eijssen, Julien Vermote and Jelle Wallays.

The last Belgian victor of the Elite worlds was Tom Boonen, who triumphed in Madrid five years ago. He was also aiming for the worlds, but has been struggling for several months with a knee problem. In all, the country has won 25 times, making it the most successful team in the history of the event.

Gilbert was sixth in Mendrisio last year, but the course in Geelong is expected to play more to his strengths.

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