Philippe Gilbert, who is enjoying a stunning season in which he became only the second rider to win all three Ardennes Classics in the same season, has been signed by US ProTeam BMC Racing on a three-year contract.
The 29-year-old Belgian also won the opening stage of this year’s Tour de France, although he lost the yellow jersey the following day to another of BMC’s 2012 signings, Garmin-Cervelo’s Thor Hushovd. The race, of course, was won by BMC Racing’s Cadel Evans, a former team mate of Gilbert’s at what is now Omega Pharma-Lotto.
Team President/General Manager Jim Ochowicz said that Gilbert, who currently occupies second place behind Evans in the UCI WorldTour rankings, would boost the team’s ability in one-day races, and that his presence would also help develop its younger riders.
"He will act as one of our leaders during the classics and other races throughout the season," said Ochowicz. "His power and tenacity will play a big role in support of Cadel's defense of his Tour de France title.
“Additionally, 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."
Gilbert says that part of the attraction of BMC Racing lay in the fact that the team had expressed an interest in him before he embarked on his winning streak this year that has not only brought him the Amstel Gold, Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne Liege hat trick, but also the Clasica San Sebastian and the Belgian national title.
With his current team’s sponsors splitting at the end of this year – Omega Pharma is teaming up with Quick Step, while Lotto has yet to reveal its plans – Gilbert’s signature has been one of the most coveted in professional cycling this year.
"They were interested in me from the beginning," said Gilbert of BMC Racing. "Plus, I know the team well. They are well-organized, very professional and a close group.
"My objectives are clear,” he added. “To go for the one-day classics and then go to the Tour to learn and help Cadel.
"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."
Evans said that he was excited to be hooking up again with a former colleague. "I'm happy to be back with one of my old teammates," commented the Tour de France champion.
"We've always remained friends, but now we get to be teammates again and that's fantastic.
"I suspect I'll be a domestique in the Ardennes week, but I look forward to it and it will be a pleasure."
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.