Gilbert puts himself back in the frame for Rio 2016 Olympic Games selection

33-year-old a late addition to Belgium's long-list

Philippe Gilbert has put himself back in the frame for the Olympic Games road race in Rio, persuading the Belgian selectors to open up another space on their long-list.

Coach Kevin De Weert already had eight names written down as candidates to Belgium's five-man team but Gilbert, who had originally settled on a plan for the European Championships in September followed by the World Championships in Qatar in October, has re-registered his interest after an encouraging month of racing. 

"Before the start of the Tour of Luxembourg, I had a conversation with him. At that time it was still uncertain whether he had recovered from the injury to his finger that disrupted a large portion of his season, so it seemed a wise decision to emphasise the European and World Championships," explained De Weert. 

"Later that week he won two stages in the Tour of Luxembourg and after the Tour de Suisse the thought of Rio crossed his head again. At that time my eight names were already on paper. But who am I to leave out a man with such a palmares?"

Gilbert, who will aim to prove himself at the Belgian national championships this weekend and then the Tour de Pologne in July, will go directly up against his BMC teammate and long-time rival Greg Van Avermaet for selection. 

De Weert explained that only one spot on the five-man Rio team would go to a Classics-style rider, with the remaining four places to be filled by riders better suited to the abundantly hilly 256.4km course in Rio. 

"They are the two 'Classics riders' in the pre-selection of nine. In the final team of five that I have in mind, one place will be reserved for a rider with those characteristics. The four others will be climbers," said De Weert.

The nine-man long-list is completed by Jan Bakelants, Ben Hermans, Serge Pauwels, Laurens De Plus, Louis Vervaeke, Tim Wellens, and Bart De Clercq. Tiesj Benoot, a rising one-day star who can climb, is a notable absentee, with De Weert unable to provide the guarantees the rider wanted in order to tailor his training in the coming weeks.

One of the riders will have to double up and represent the country in the time trial, which also takes place on a hilly course, though the selectors have no firm idea of who that will be. 

"Tim Wellens is strong against the clock, but that also goes for Ben Hermans," said De Weert. "And because the time trial course is also very tough you can't even rule out a rider like Jan Bakelants. I'm not sure yet."

The final five will be named on July 22, with the Tour de France and Tour de Pologne to act as the final indicators of form. 

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