NICE, France (VN) — Team doctors will decide this weekend if Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) will race Milano-Sanremo on March 19.
Twice third in the spring classics opener, Gilbert fell ill during this week’s Paris-Nice, and did not start stage 3. Short on racing miles and recovering from a cold, team officials said Gilbert might not race in order to prepare 100 percent for the Ardennes classics, still one month away.
“The doctors will see how he’s recovering, and that’s more of a medical decision than a sporting decision at this point,” BMC’s manager of sport Allan Peiper told VeloNews.
“You could use Catalunya or País Vasco to be ready for the Ardennes, so that is not lost, but it’s an important decision for him and the team if he’s going to be ready for Sanremo.”
Wintry weather in the opening stages of Paris-Nice took Gilbert out of a critical preparation race ahead of the season’s first major classic. Without Paris-Nice in his legs, Gilbert would be at a disadvantage against riders such as Michael Matthews (Orica – GreenEdge) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis), who have performed well in the week-long stage race.
If Gilbert does not start Sanremo, Greg Van Avermaet will be the team’s sole captain. Racing in Tirreno-Adriatico this week, Van Avermaet counts a ninth-place finish as his career-best at Sanremo.
“We still have a strong team and a leader with Greg, but having Phil there and having a two-pronged attack would be better,” Peiper said.
Looking ahead to the northern classics, Peiper said the team is confident Van Avermaet can deliver an elusive big win. His victory at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad will only serve to bolster Van Avermaet’s confidence going into April.
“It’s been building for the last couple of years with Greg,” Peiper continued. “Winning Het Nieuwsblad was big for his confidence, and we expect big things for the northern classics.”
Peiper also said the team will wait and see how Taylor Phinney comes out of Tirreno-Adriatico before deciding if the American will be able to race in the northern classics. Phinney told VeloNews contributor Gregor Brown he’s hoping to race Paris-Roubaix.
“Taylor’s racing well, but it’s a question how much his body can withstand, and how he gets through Tirreno,” Peiper said. “We need to look at how his body holds up from Tirreno, and how we can map out for him to get to the classics. If he races Roubaix, we don’t want it to be detrimental to him.”