Unsure of race plan, Gilbert to make California debut

The world champion is in California for his first U.S. race

World champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) will pedal his rainbow bands around California next week in his American debut, but isn’t yet sure what to make of a tricky Amgen Tour of California parcours.

Gilbert will likely ride in support of American Tejay van Garderen, who has finished on the podium in California twice before, but is looking to notch his first major stage-race win. He’ll face stiff competition in the way of Lieuwe Westra and Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Matthew Busche (RadioShack-Leopard).

“We went for training Wednesday. We only have four guys here now: Thor (Hushovd), Marco (Pinotti), Mathias (Frank), and me. We will try to recover first from the jet lag and then the race will come pretty fast,” said Gilbert, who’s coming off a classics campaign that never saw him find his 2011 form, which saw him to a sweep of the Ardennes classics. Things will look clearer for Gilbert and BMC Racing’s other riders by Friday.

“I have not had a chance to see the technical guide,” he said. “So I don’t know the parcours precisely yet. But once [BMC Racing director] John Lelangue arrives on Friday, we will go over the plan for the entire race.”

The race begins on Sunday in Escondido and heads north, ending Sunday, May 19 in Santa Rosa.