Philippe Gilbert (Team BMC) will make his return to racing, a month after he signed off his Classics campaign with third in La Fleche Wallonne. The Belgian rider had a relatively poor spring by his standards, failing to win a Classic after the opening months of his season were affected by illness and injury.
However, he will line-up for the start of the Tour of Belgium on Wednesday – one of two stage races he won in a remarkable 2011 – with high hopes of a strong performance.
"It was good for me to spend one month at home, to be able to work hard and start a new base and build new form and condition," he said in a press release.
The five day event may come down to the final two days, which include a 20.5 kilometre time trial followed by a testing course that includes climbs from La Flèche-Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
"I know against the time trial specialists, I will lose time," Gilbert said. "The last stage is tricky in the area of Huy, so if I see that I can't aim for the general classification, I will try to win a stage."
The team’s directeur sportif, John Lelangue, gave his opinion: "The time trial is totally flat and almost without curves – something for a specialist – while the last day will be selective. We'll also have to be careful because of the wind. Normally it's a perfect race for the sprinters. But we'll have to make sure we don't get caught in a split with the wind."