Reigning champion with strong Belgian squad
Philippe Gilbert will be supported by a strong team as he attempts to defend his title at the world championships later this month in Florence. Belgian national Coach Carlo Bomans named his seven-man squad Monday afternoon.
Gilbert, Jan Bakelants, Gianni Meersman, Greg Van Avermaet, and Bjorn Leukemans were considered set for the squad. The remaining two place went to Dries Devenyns and Johan Vansummeren.
Gilbert (BMC), who won the title last September in Valkenberg, had struggled during his season in the rainbow jersey, not getting his first win until recently. After coming close several times, he finally took his first win as world champion in stage 12 of the Vuelta a Espana.
Bakelants (RadioShack-Leopard) can also boast of a Grand Tour stage win this year, having won the second stage of the Tour de France, which gave him the leader's jersey for two stages. Meersman (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) won two stages each a the Volta a Catalunya and the Tour de Romandie, as well as the prologue of the Tour de l'Ain and the points jersey at the Criterium du Dauphine.
Van Avermaet can also look back to a successful season, having won the overall title at the Tour de Wallonie, along with two stage wins and the points ranking. He also won a stage at the Tour of Utah and was third in Gent-Wevelgem and the GP Quebec, as well as fourth in Paris-Roubaix and fifth in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Leukemans (Vacansoleil-DCM), won the Druivenkoers Overijse and had top five finishes in the Brabantse Pil and Amstel Gold Race.
Vansummeren (Garmin-Sharp) and Dries Devenyns (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) are expected to serve as domestiques during the race.
The reserve riders are Ben Hermans, Serge Pauwels, Jürgen Roelandts and Maxime Montfort. It was announced last week that Thomas De Gendt and Kristof Vandewalle would ride the time trial.
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