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BMC signs Philippe Gilbert

2011 Tour de France, stage 1, Philippe Gilbert
Gilbert won stage 1 of the 2011 Tour. Evans was second and Hushovd third that day. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

BMC Racing Team announced early Friday that it had hired Philippe Gilbert, the reigning Belgian champion and the star of one-day races this year, to a three-year contract.

Gilbert, currently with Omega Pharma-Lotto, will bolster a potent team that will contain current world champion Thor Hushovd and Tour winner Cadel Evans.

“He will act as one of our leaders during the classics and other races throughout the season,” said BMC team manager Jim 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, in a team statement, said he had been leaning toward joining BMC in part because the team expressed interest in hiring him early in the season, before he began a stunning series of wins that included a sweep of the Ardennes classics, a Tour stage win, the national championships and more.

“They 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 said he is most looking forward to helping at the Tour de France, which starts next year in his home country. “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 Liège, it’s close to my home. So I will try to win a stage and then help Cadel win the Tour.”

In a team statement, Evans said he was excited about Gilbert’s addition to the team.

“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.”

Gilbert is second on the UCI WorldTour rankings, a few points behind Evans.

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