At the Tour de France, cycling's great transfer market, rumour has grown in recent days that Philippe Gilbert has agreed to sign with American team BMC for next season. The Belgian, whose squad Omega Pharma-Lotto will split at the end of 2010, has reportedly made his choice of teams for next year with John Lelangue - but nothing has been revealed officially yet.
According to L'Equipe, Gilbert opted for BMC not only for its promising financial and sporting proposal, but also because he was disappointed with the recent media coverage in his country. After a package containing doping products and destined to former Lotto rider Wim Vansevenant was discovered in June, some representatives of the media quickly linked the Belgian champion to the affair.
"I will never forget what was said about me, the links to an affair with which I have nothing to do," Gilbert was quoted in the French newspaper.
Even though he maintained that his first choice would be a Belgian team, it seems the offers he received in his home country did not convice him to stay. Nothing will be confirmed until August 1, but Belgian television yesterday interviewed team director Lelangue on how Gilbert would fit into the squad that already includes other Classics contenders such as Cadel Evans and Greg Van Avermaet.
"The collaboration between Van Avermaet and Gilbert? That's a problem we'll solve this winter," Lelangue said to Sporza, implicitly confirming the transfer.
The winner of this year's Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Flèche Brabanconne may thus join an already strong Classics team also including Alessandro Ballan and George Hincapie. Further rumours also link Garmin-Cervélo's Thor Hushovd to the squad, but signing Gilbert as well as the World Champion all in one year could prove too expensive even for BMC's important budget.
Cyclingnews may have more information on this later as the rider agents continue to talk to teams on the Tour de France's second rest day.