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Belgian champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC) is a former Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winner.
Belgian trivolour giving two-time winner added motivation
Gilbert previously won the race in East Flanders in 2006 and 2008 – and on both occasions had little preparation – something that is giving the 29-year-old added confidence heading into this year's 67th edition of the race.
Should he win on Sunday, Gilbert will join Joseph Bruyère (1974, 1975, 1980), Ernest Sterckx (1952, 1953, 1956) and Peter van Petegem (1997, 1998, 2002) as a three-time victor.
"On both occasions when I won before, I was still not 100 per cent, so why should I worry," Gilbert told Sporza. "I have a good basic condition, though I have no specific training behind me.
"I race with the Belgian tricolor and that gives me extra motivation," he said.
Gilbert began his 2012 season in at the Tour of Qatar where he finished 22nd overall before moving on to the Tour Cycliste International du Haut Var in the south of France last weekend where he posted a top 20 result on GC. While Gilbert is motivated to do well at Omloop, his major early-season goal is Milan-San Remo.
As reported earlier on Cyclingnews, Gilbert and his BMC team did recon work over the cobbles on Thursday. Something rival Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) is yet to do.
"Boonen is very good," Gilbert critiqued. "He will be keen to finally win here and he has a good team," Gilbert said of his Belgian rival. "[Juan Antonio] Flecha is also very strong."