World Champion says he's suited to Adelaide parcours
Philippe Gilbert will lead a "super strong" BMC Racing Team line-up at the 2013 Santos Tour Down Under in January, with the Belgian happy with what the Australian WorldTour event has on offer for him.
Gilbert had also been considering starting the season at the Tour de San Luis or Qatar.
It will be reigning World Champion's first appearance in Adelaide since 2008 when he was racing for Française des Jeux. That year he won the King of the Mountains classification. His first taste of Adelaide was actually four years earlier when he won a stage, along with the Young Rider classification to finish fourth overall.
"My winter training and preparation so far has been perfect," Gilbert said. "I saw the parcours on the Internet and it looks good for me. So I will go there with some ambition and we also bring a great team. But for the first race, it's hard to know how you will really feel."
Gilbert will be joined by Alessandro Ballan, Martin Kohler, Klaas Lodewyck, Amaël Moinard, Steve Morabito and Danilo Wyss. In 2012, Ballan sacrificed his own chances for Kohler, who was in the ochre leader's jersey on two occasions, but the Italian was hopeful that he will have more opportunities in 2013.
"The Santos Tour Down Under will be very difficult," said Ballan. "I think the decisive stage will be the next to last one - Stage 5 - with its two ascents of Old Willunga Hill and uphill finish. In my opinion, it's not too demanding, but it will be a factor."
Fabio Baldato will be guiding BMC in Adelaide and explained that it was important to start the year in the right fashion.
"This will be an exciting race for us, with two strong riders like Philippe and Alessandro and a great team around them. I know from racing in the Tour Down Under myself as a rider in 2008 about Willunga Hill and the challenges it presents," he said.
"It's important to get off to a good start in the WorldTour races, so of course we'll want to achieve some good results in Australia. The riders will have a training camp together next month and then it will be important for them not to take too much of a holiday before we resume again in January."