BMC Racing have confirmed the signing of Philippe Gilbert on a three-year deal, further boosting a 2012 roster that already includes current world champion Thor Hushovd and Tour de France winner Cadel Evans.
Belgian national road and time trial champion Gilbert has enjoyed a remarkable year, with his victories including a hat-trick of wins in the Ardennes Classics, the opening stage of the Tour de France and the Clásica de San Sebastián.
With Hushovd also set to join the United States-based squad, Gilbert’s signature again raises the question of how team manager Jim Ochowicz will balance the team’s priorities when defending Evans’ Tour title next year.
But Gilbert revealed he will aim to strike an early stage win at the Tour before playing a supporting role for the team.
“My objectives are clear: to go for the one-day classics and then go to the Tour to learn and help Cadel,” said Gilbert, currently second behind Evans in the UCI world rankings.
“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.”
And the team is not without its versatility, with former team-mate Evans revealing the roles will be reversed at the start of the season.
“I’m happy to be back with one of my old teammates,” said Evans. “We’ve always remained friends, but now we get to be team-mates 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.”
Team manager Ochowicz, who rode the team pursuit for the United States at the 1972 and 1976 Olympic Games, added: “He will act as one of our leaders during the classics and other races throughout the season. His power and tenacity will play a big role in support of Cadel’s defense of his Tour de France title.
“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.”