Belgium's transfer market is busy as two of the country's most successful riders could change teams at the end of this season. Philippe Gilbert, dominator of the Ardennes Classics, is currently looking at a massive number of proposals, whilst Tom Boonen, always among the favourites on the cobbles, could also move away from his Quick Step team.
Gilbert, who leads Omega Pharma-Lotto, has received offers from almost all World Tour teams according to his advisor Vincent Wathelet. "All of them contacted me, from Astana to Quick Step," Wathelet told Het Nieuwsblad this week. "But Philippe hasn't made a decision yet. He doesn't want to make any mistakes, as these will be important years for him.
"The primary criterion for Philippe is his sporting future, it comes before the financial (criterion). He would prefer a Belgian project, but under the condition that he doesn't have to make a step backwards on a sports level."
With Omega Pharma and Lotto splitting up at the end of 2011, there are thus three high-level Belgian teams interested in Gilbert, and Wathelet has been speaking to all of them. "I had a good conversation with his current boss Marc Coucke, and I also talked to (Quick Step manager) Patrick Lefevere, as well as with Marc Frederix and Bob Verbeeck from Lotto. It's no secret that Eddy Merckx [who has a seat in the team's administration council - ed.] would like to see Philippe ride his bikes one day. But there is also still a clause in his current contract with Omega Pharma," added Wathelet.
If Gilbert does choose Quick Step as his next team, it might imply Boonen's departure. With his contract running out at the end of this season, Belgium's cobbled Classics hunter is apparently open to change, but has also already pointed out that he will not "move teams just for the sake of moving."
Boonen's agent Paul De Geyter is also studying several proposals. "There are about five teams genuinely interested in him, among which his current employer," he stated.
Both Boonen and Gilbert are currently riding the Tour of Belgium as they prepare for the Tour de France.