Philippe Gilbert confirmed as joining Cadel Evans and Thor Hushovd on BMC Racing Team
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Friday, August 19, 2011

Philippe Gilbert confirmed as joining Cadel Evans and Thor Hushovd on BMC Racing Team

by Shane Stokes at 4:26 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Three year deal for Belgian champion further bolsters American ProTeam’s strength

Philippe GilbertBMC Racing Team has further fortified its squad for next season in signing the dominant rider of 2011, Philippe Gilbert, on a three year deal.

The rider joins Tour de France champion Cadel Evans on the squad and ensures that the team has both the world number one (Evans) and number two on the team. The American ProTeam also recently announced that current world road race champion Thor Hushovd would come on board next season, making it a setup that could dominate many of the sport’s races.

“They were interested in me from the beginning,” Gilbert stated, explaining that this early interest was a factor in his decision. “Plus, I know the team well. They are well-organized, very professional and a close group.

“My objectives are clear: to go for the one-day Classics and then go to the Tour to learn and help Cadel. Next year with the start in Liege, it's close to my home. So I will try to win a stage and then help Cadel win the Tour.”

Gilbert’s mention of learning at the Tour may be significant. He previously ruled out a tilt at the general classification, telling VeloNation in a video interview at this year’s Tour that he had different ambitions in the sport. “I am not somebody who can fight for second, third, fourth or fifth place. I can’t understand this,” he said then. “For me it is difficult…I cannot give everything for three weeks to get fifth place.”

It remains to be seen if his talk about learning at the Tour signifies a longer-term change in his ambitions.

Right now, Gilbert is a proven winner in one day Classics and shorter stage races. He has clocked up almost twenty wins this year, including the extremely rare Ardennes Classics treble of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Flèche Wallonne and Amstel Gold, the Belgian road race and time trial title, and other single-day victories in Brabantse Pijl, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the Clasica San Sebastian.

He’s scored in stage races too, taking overall titles in the Ster ZLM Toer and Tour of Belgium, plus stage victories in the Tour de France, Volta ao Algarve, Tirreno-Adriatico, Tour of Belgium, Ster ZLM Toer and Eneco Tour.

One additional goal is to become world number one, and with Evans’ season likely to wind down after next week’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge, it seems a realistic target.

The rider’s agent said yesterday that the search had been narrowed down to two teams; the BMC Racing Team, and the planned new Omega Pharma-Quick Step setup. BMC was not to be denied, though, and the final details were hammered out to seal the deal.

According to BMC Racing Team President Jim Ochowicz, Gilbert will add to the team in a number of ways. “He will act as one of our leaders during the Classics and other races throughout the season,” he stated. “His power and tenacity will play a big role in support of Cadel's defense of his Tour de France title. Additionally, his experience will be shared in a mentorship role to the younger riders on the team like Taylor Phinney and Greg Van Avermaet as they continue to develop their skills in the Classics.”

Evans is someone who has been frustrated in the past by his previous teams spreading their backing to too many riders. He has a major part in running the team, though, and appears content with how things are being structured. He also knows Gilbert from the past and the two have a good relationship.

“I'm happy to be back with one of my old teammates,” he stated. “We've always remained friends, but now we get to be teammates again and that's fantastic.”

He made it clear that he will give, as well as take, support. “I suspect I'll be a domestique in the Ardennes week, but I look forward to it and it will be a pleasure.”

 

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