BMC and Vacansoleil-DCM riders preview the cobbles
As the 2012 Belgian Classic season is about to commence with Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, plenty of teams have been pre-riding the parcours and on Thursday members of BMC Racing Team and Vacansoleil-DCM spent several hours getting re-acquainted with slick cobbles and foggy, drizzly weather.
The BMC squad will field two former Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winners, Philippe Gilbert and Thor Hushovd, and the powerhouse classics squad is expected to be in the mix for victory on Saturday.
"For me, it is important to be here in Belgium, with the national champion's jersey," said Gilbert. "I will see how the race will go Saturday. It's not the most important race, but it is still a nice one. We have a strong team, it will be really helpful because the main thing here is to have many guys remaining in the group close to the finish and I think one of us can be close to the win."
Hushovd, the 2009 champion, will be making his eighth appearance in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, but the first on the BMC Racing Team.
"It's the first big race together and we will really race for results so it will be nice to see the performance of each rider. For sure, we're a team strong enough to win. We just have to race well together and see how the race develops. Myself, I think my condition is getting better and better so it should not be too bad on the race."
For BMC directeur sportif John Lelangue, Thursday's pre-ride was an important opportunity to fine-tune the squad's preparation for race day.
"We did a good reconnaissance this morning of the last 85 kilometers of the race," said Lelangue. "After the winter where we had a nice training camp in Spain in different weather and road conditions, it was important to get all the riders together and go on those cobblestones and little climbs and special roads. Even if most of them know the parcours without even looking to the map, it's always good to remember – and to ride together and see the last roads and to also test the materials, new tires, tire pressure, etc. We will organize reconnaissance for almost all the classics. It's important for us."