The Philippe Gilbert transfer saga has finally come to a close with Team BMC announcing today that they had won the race for the Belgian's signature. Gilbert had been weighing up whether to stay with current team Omega Pharma-Lotto or to move on, and it seems the prospects of linking up with Thor Hushovd and Cadel Evans in 2012, and a multi-million Euro contract, was too good an opportunity to turn down.
The deal ties Gilbert with the team until the end of the 2014 season, however the value has not been disclosed by BMC. Gilbert's 2011 season so far has seen him dominate the classics as well as develop his skills in short stage races. Team Manager Jim Ochowicz welcomed Gilbert, who he believes to be coming to BMC in the prime of his career.
"He will act as one of our leaders during the classics and other races throughout the season," Ochowicz said. "His power and tenacity will play a big role in support of Cadel's defense of his Tour de France title."
Ochowicz also believes there is plenty Gilbert can pass on to the growing number of talented youngsters at BMC.
"His experience will be shared in a mentorship role to the younger riders on the team like Taylor Phinney and Greg Van Avermaet as they continue to develop their skills in the classics."
For his part Gilbert was relieved to finally be able to announce his 2012 team after a long period of legal to-and-froing with regard to his current contract. The Belgian admitted that once the all-clear was given the decision was easy.
"BMC were interested in me from the beginning," Gilbert said. "Plus, I know the team well. They are well-organized, very professional and a close group."
Gilbert also explained that he'd be following a similar program in 2012 to this year.
"My objectives are clear: to go for the one-day classics and then go to the Tour to learn and help Cadel," he said. "Next year with the start in Liege, it's close to my home. So I will try to win a stage and then help Cadel win the Tour."
Cadel Evans, currently preparing for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado welcomed Gilbert, who he raced with previously at former team Silence-Lotto.
"I'm happy to be back with one of my old teammates," Evans said. "We've always remained friends, but now we get to be teammates again and that's fantastic," Evans said. "I suspect I'll be a domestique in the Ardennes week, but I look forward to it and it will be a pleasure."