World champion to ride GP di Lugano, Paris-Nice
Philippe Gilbert will not start next weekend's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, with his BMC team instead deciding to give Thor Hushovd and Greg Van Avermaet the opportunity to lead at the spring opener in Belgium. Gibert is a two-time winner of the semi-classic (2006,2008), however, the reigning world champion's start to the year has been anything but quiet and he "can't ride everything", according to team director John Lelangue.
The decision to leave Gilbert at home is only for a day as he is now scheduled to ride the GP di Lugano in Switzerland - which comes the day following Het Nieuwsblad. Meanwhile, the Belgian squad may be able to rely on another former winner to take the reins with Hushovd, who won the title in 2009. Leadership from Hushovd appears uncertain at this time as he continues to build his condition after struggling with illness for most of last season.
"Our priorities will be Greg Van Avermaet and Thor Hushovd," said Lelangue to nieuwsblad.be.
"Philippe cannot ride everything. We have adjusted his program this season compared to last year. He launched [the year] in Australia and now Oman. Through the GP Lugano he will go to Paris-Nice in preparation for Milan-San Remo," he explained.
Van Avermaet could well prove to be the outright leader when the 198.6km Belgian semi-classic begins on 23 February. Van Avermaet was already part of the winning time trial team at the Tour of Qatar and he finished it off with sixth overall. He's currently at the Tour of Oman, where he finish second behind Peter Sagan on Stage 3.
Gilbert, who is also enjoying the warmth of Oman, was relatively pleased with his form so far but admitted that the gradient of Green Mountain was a little too much for him at this time of the year.
"My performance was not bad," said Gilbert. "But I was sore, I rode on the 39-28 and I had the feeling that it was too big. There were sections of seventeen percent. It was really every man for himself."