The Belgian cycling federation on Friday named five riders who will represent the country in the road race at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, with Classics riders Greg Van Avermaet and Phillippe Gilbert headlining the list. The BMC Racing teammates will be joined in Rio by talented climbers Laurens De Plus (Etixx-QuickStep), Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data) and recent Tour of Poland winner Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal).
Van Avermaet, 31, won stage 5 at the Tour de France and led the race for three days, while 34-year-old Gilbert, who won the Belgian road race championship in June, most recently finished 16th in Poland.
Wellens, 25, showed his current good form in Poland, where he took the lead by winning the mountainous fifth stage ahead of Cannondale's Davide Formolo. Wellens also won stages at Paris-Nice and the Giro d'Italia this year. He won the Eneco Tour in 2014 and 2015, and he grabbed a win in the one-day Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal last September.
"The Olympics are one of my goals this season. I’m doing all I can to start with the best possible condition," said Wellens. "The coach has given us a lot of info about the course. Louis Vervaeke, who took part in the test event last year, also shared his experiences. Everyone says it’s really hard. It’s good that the road race is scheduled first, because that’s my main goal, but I am definitely motivated for the time trial. I will do my best in the time trial."
Pauwels, 34, a former Sky and QuickStep rider, finished second to Thomas de Gendt during the Mont Ventoux stage of the Tour de France earlier this week. He was on the move again three days later, joining a successful breakaway and finishing sixth in the Culoz stage won by Colombian Jarlinson Pantano (IAM Cycling).
De Plus, at just 20 years old, is the youngest rider on the squad and represents the future for Belgian cycling.
The Olympics road race takes place August 6 in Rio de Janeiro, with the individual time trial following on August 10.