American WorldTour outfit BMC Racing were one of a number of squads hitting the cobbles of Belgium on Thursday in preparation for the weekend’s double-header of Northern European races.
New BMC recruits for 2012, Philippe Gilbert and Thor Hushovd, mixed in with the rest of the squad on the tough roads of Belgium ahead of Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Sunday’s Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.
National champion Gilbert will be looking to repeat his stellar season of last year, where he dominated one-day racing from beginning to end including winning all three Ardennes Classics – Amstel Gold, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Fleche Wallonne.
Also training on the cobbles was American Taylor Phinney, who is hoping to make his classics debut this year after missing out in 2011 due to injury.
“I’ve always felt at home racing in Belgium,” said Phinney. “The flats, the wind and the cobbles really suit my racing style. I am beyond excited and honored to be lining up with our big classics team.”
BMC directeur sportif John Lelangue added: “It’s the first big classic for the guys and the first time to check everything: the weather, the team, the materials.
“So our first objective will be to test everything because we’ll be doing the same climbs and cobblestones of Flanders, E3 Harelbeke and Ghent-Wevelgem.”
British rider Adam Blythe will join the team for Sunday’s Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.
Philippe Gilbert (left) and Taylor Phinney (right)