Taylor Phinney will finally make his long-awaited debut in the classics this weekend in Belgium, having been sidelined in 2011 due to the spring season due to a knee injury and then concussion from a training incident.
"It's the first big classic for the guys and the first time to check everything: the weather, the team, the materials," Directeur Sportif John Lelangue said. "So our first objective will be to test everything because we'll be doing the same climbs and cobblestones of Flanders, E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem."
For Phinney, a two-time Under 23 Paris-Roubaix winner, this weekend marks a return to a comfort zone.
"I've always felt at home racing in Belgium," Phinney said. "The flats, the wind and the cobbles really suit my racing style. I am beyond excited and honored to be lining up with our big classics team. Qatar and Oman were a great experience, as well as great training. The legs are responding well and I am looking forward to testing them this weekend."
When it comes to Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne on Sunday Gilbert, Hushovd and Marcus Burghardt sit out while Adam Blythe, Danilo Wyss and Tour of Oman most aggressive classification winner Klaas Lodewyck will be on the start line. Assistant Director Fabio Baldato said much of the team's approach to the 195-kilometre race will depend on how Omloop Het Nieuwsblad plays out.
"We will have three fresh riders who are free to make the race or an attack or be part of the action right from the start," Baldato said. "The day after Het Nieuwsblad, we will have a better feel for precisely what we can do."
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad roster: Alessandro Ballan (Ita), Marcus Burghardt (Ger), Philippe Gilbert (Bel), Thor Hushovd (Nor), Taylor Phinney (USA), Manuel Quinziato (Ita), Michael Schär (Swi), Greg Van Avermaet (Bel).
Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne roster: Alessandro Ballan (Ita), Adam Blythe (GBr), Klaas Lodewyck (Bel), Taylor Phinney (USA), Manuel Quinziato (Ita), Michael Schär (Swi), Greg Van Avermaet (Bel), Danilo Wyss (Swi).