BMC Racing pulled World Champion Philippe Gilbert and Taylor Phinney out of its Tour of Flanders roster at the last minute today.
British rider Adam Blythe and Belgian Klaas Lodewyck will fill in, but questions remain.
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“Call John Lelangue”
When reached by telephone, Performance Manager Allan Peiper and Sports Director Fabio Baldato told Cycling Weekly, “Call John Lelangue.”
Lelangue was unavailable after multiple attempts to contact him this afternoon. The team’s press officer said that he is travelling and that he would speak at the press conference tomorrow in Kortrijk, Belgium.
Without Gilbert or Phinney, fewer journalists will attend.
Greg Van Avermaet and Thor Hushovd lead the team with help from Blythe, Lodewyck, Marcus Burghardt, Manuel Quinziato, Daniel Oss and Michael Schär.
Dream wins gone
Gilbert told Cycling Weekly and other journalists in the Tour of Oman that he dreams of winning Flanders.
“I dream of every race that I have not won,” he said. “Especially from Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Flanders. The other races I already have in my palmarès.”
Instead, Gilbert will step back and save his bullets for the Ardennes Classics, where he won all three in 2011. A cold picked up at Paris-Nice is still holding him back, according to a team communiqué.
He will return to racing in the Tour of the Basque Country, April 1 to 6.
“With my current condition, I know I cannot be successful at Flanders,” Gilbert said in the team release.
“I want to give everything for the Ardennes Classics, so I have decided to change my programme and go to [the Basque Country] to prepare. I need a stage race where I can go hard on the climbs. It’s always better for me to race than train because you can go much deeper in a race.”
Phinney has yet to race Flanders, but was due to line up on Sunday. Given his rides in Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo, he appeared ready.
The team said in he experienced pain above his right knee in Ghent-Wevelgem on Sunday.
“I’m confident if I stay at home in Italy and have a couple more days of recovery, I can be back 100 per cent for Paris-Roubaix. I could probably push through the injury but I wouldn’t be at my best.”
Hushovd has yet to show his best this season, but Van Avermaet and Oss, third in E3 Harelbeke should lift the team’s spirits after a black Thursday filled with questions.