BMC backing Gilbert and Hushovd at Baloise Belgium Tour

BMC enter the Baloise Belgium Tour with the dual objectives of stage victories and a high placing on the general classification. Thor Hushovd will be the protected rider for the flat sprint stages while the team is also built around setting up Philippe Gilbert for a high overall placing.

The first stage of the UCI 2.1HC event begins in Lochristi and finishes 173km later in Buggenhout with a sprint finish likely to decide on who wears the first leader's jersey of the race.

The16.8km stage 3 time trial will prove decisive for the riders with aspiration for a podium place although stage 5, which visits the Mur de Huy, will also be key to deciding the victor.

Gilbert won the race in 2011 although the 2012 and 2013 champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) returns in the hope of making it three straight and the world champion against the clock is a favourite for the win. 

Last year, Martin was 40 seconds quicker than second placed Tom Dumoilin (Giant-Shimano) in the time trial and the win all about ensured his overall victory

Allan Peiper, BMC's sport director, explained what the team goals are for the race and how they'll approach each stage.

"We will be going with a strong team focusing on Thor Hushovd for the sprint stages, Steve Cummings for the time trial and Philippe Gilbert as our leader for the overall general classification that includes a tough final weekend," Peiper said.

Gilbert was third overall last year while teammate Greg Van Avermaet was runner-up to Gilbert in 2011. Both riders enjoyed successful Classics campaigns and are coming back into form as Gilbert showed at the Tour de Picardie by winning the mountains classification.

Van Avermaet, runner-up this year at both Ronde van Vlaanderen and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, was pleased with his return to racing at the Tour of California where he animated the race and helped teammate Peter Stetina to finish sixth overall.

"It was good to come back in form and get some climbing kilometers in my legs," Van Avermaet said. "This is a good race because it is in my home country and I am always motivated to do a good race. Plus, the first stage is close to my home and the last stage is quite hard and will fit me the best."

Supporting the team's GC and stage ambitions will be Marcus Burghardt, Silvan Dillier, Klaas Lodewyck and neo-pro Rick Zabel.

BMC for Baloise Belgium Tour: Marcus Burghardt, Stephen Cummings, Silvan Dillier , Philippe Gilbert, Thor Hushovd, Klaas Lodewyck , Greg Van Avermaet and Rick Zabel.

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