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BMC set to tackle heavy Classics schedule

The BMC Racing Team of World Champion Cadel Evans is preparing for a heavy spring schedule which could include all of the major Spring Classics as well as the Giro d'Italia.

Because of its Professional Continental status, the team must rely on wild card invitations to the UCI's World Calendar races, but director John Lelangue told Cyclingnews he is confident that the team will gain entry to the races.

Former Ronde van Vlaanderen winner Alessandro Ballan and Classics specialists George Hincapie, Marcus Burghardt and Karsten Kroon are expected to be major players in the upcoming races: Milano-Sanremo, Gent-Wevelgem, Ronde van Vlaanderen, Paris-Roubaix, Amstel Gold Race, La Flèche Wallonne and Liège - Bastogne - Liège.

Evans will be targeting the Giro d'Italia and the Tirreno-Adriatico as a warm-up for the Italian Grand Tour.

"We are sure that we are in for Tirreno-Adriatico and the Giro d'Italia," said Lelangue. "The other invitations will come in step by step. We expect the decision on Milano-Sanremo any time now.

"We put in our applications for candidature to these races last fall, and the organisers know we will field a strong team."

The team is also seeking entry for the Tour of Romandie, the Tour de France, the two new ProTour races set to take place in Canada as well as the Tour of Poland, Vattenfall Cyclassics in Germany and the Tour of Lombardy.

Baldato debuts as director in Qatar

The team's newest Assistant Sport Director is Italian Fabio Baldato, who joined the BMC team from the Lampre squad along with riders Alessandro Ballan and Mauro Santambrogio. He will debut in the Tours of Qatar and Oman this month.

While Baldato is something of a legend in the Classics, having come second in Milano-Sanremo in 2000, second in Flanders in both 1995 and 1996 and second in Paris-Roubaix in 1994, he will not be in the car for the Spring Classics this year, as Lelangue indicated that the Italian would be leading the team's reconnaissance of the Giro d'Italia route at that time.

Speaking at the team's camp in Agoura Hills, California, Baldato called the opportunity to work with the BMC a good personal and professional experience as it will not only allow him to grow as a sport director, but it also gives him the chance to improve his English.

Baldato, an 18-year pro who was the oldest rider in the ProTour in 2008, was contracted to keep riding through 2009 with Lampre, but a crash in the Eneco Tour left him with a broken hip and collarbone, and made it impossible for him to continue as a rider. He continued on with Lampre as a director last year after his retirement.

"The first year was difficult, especially at the start of the season when you see your teammates out training," Baldato said of his first year as assistant director.

"But it was good experience to start as director with the same team I raced for in the last year. They're like a family - I knew all the riders and staff. It was a good first experience as a director."

He had another year as a part-time director with Lampre, but when the offer came from BMC to take a full-time position and to work alongside Ballan and Santambrogio, Baldato took the leap.

"For me it's a big jump, and a big opportunity," Baldato said, explaining that despite being an expert at the Classics as a rider, me must now take a back seat when it comes to the big races. "For the moment I'm only an assistant sport director, I'll be doing the little races, I prefer to grow a little bit (before directing the team in a big race)."

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Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. A former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks.