The BMC team has confirmed that both Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet will be part of their strong squad targeting Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad –the first race of the Belgian season and the first cobbled Classic of the 2016 season.
The BMC team will also be in action at the weekend at the Classic Sud-Ardèche and La Drôme Classic,with Rohan Dennis making his season debut in Europe in the French races as BMC prepares for Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico.
Gilbert and Van Avermaet often compete for leadership in the BMC team and usually share major objectives but will work together as they take on Etixx-QuickStep, Katusha, Lotto Soudal and the other classics squads at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
Gilbert showed his early season form by winning the Vuelta a Murcia race, while Van Avermaet took a series of strong placings in both the Tour of Qatar and Tour of Oman. Van Avermaet finished sixth in last year's race in a chase group that finished 1:24 behind winner Ian Stannard (Team Sky). Gilbert was eighth at over four minutes back.
“Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is always an important race for a Belgian rider so I hope to do well there. This year it's even more special for me because ten years ago I won for the first time," Gilbert said in a statement from the BMC team.
Van Avermaet travelled home to Belgium on Monday after completing the Tour of Oman. He is convinced the warm weather racing has given him the form needed for cobbled climbs of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
"Racing in Qatar and Oman was really good preparation for the Belgian races. It's always exciting to race in Belgium and I'm ready for some tough racing," he said.
Also in the BMC squad for the Belgian races are experienced domestiques Daniel Oss, Manuel Quinziato and Michael Schär. The 22 year-old Rick Zabel is also part of the team as he continues to progress and develop.
The same riders, apart from Gilbert, who will be replaced by neo-pro Tom Bohli, will also ride Sunday’s Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, which is more suited to the sprinters.
BMC for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (Saturday 27 February): Jempy Drucker, Philippe Gilbert, Floris Gerts, Daniel Oss, Manuel Quinziato, Michael Schär, Greg Van Avermaet and Rick Zabel.
BMC for Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne (Sunday 28 February): Tom Bohli, Jempy Drucker, Floris Gerts, Daniel Oss, Manuel Quinziato, Michael Schär, Greg Van Avermaet and Rick Zabel.
BMC for Classic Sud-Ardèche (27 February) and La Drôme Classic (28 February): Darwin Atapuma, Rohan Dennis, Amaël Moinard, Samuel Sanchez, Manuel Senni, Dylan Teuns, Loïc Vliegen and Danilo Wyss.
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