Hushovd, Gilbert downplay chances at ‘Het Volk’

Superstars making classics debut with BMC

Photo: Graham Watson

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Team BMC brings its A-team to the classics opening weekend, with Philippe Gilbert and Thor Hushovd lining up for Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad to kick the 2012 spring classics into gear in Belgium.

Hushovd won the race in 2009 as part of the new Cervélo outfit, but seems unsure of where his fitness is still more than a month away from the more important races across the cobblestones in early April.

” I think my condition is getting better and better so it should not be too bad on the race,” Hushovd said in a Team BMC release. “We have a strong team here. It’s the first big race together and we will really race for results so it will be nice to see the performance of each rider. For sure, we’re a team. Strong enough to win. We just have to race well together and see how the race develops.”

Gilbert has won the race twice (2006, 2008), but also seems reluctant to stand up and call himself the outright favorite for victory Saturday. Instead, he seems to suggest that it could be a BMC teammate who could be playing their card for the win.

“For me, it is important to be here in Belgium, with the national champion’s jersey. I will see how the race will go Saturday. It’s not the most important race, but it is still a nice one,” Gilbert said. “We have a strong team, it will be really helpful because the main thing here is to have many guys remaining in the group close to the the finish and I think one of us can be close to the win.”

Taylor Phinney will be making his debut in the semi-classic that traditionally opens the Belgian racing calendar. Phinney missed last year’s edition when he was hampered with knee troubles. Phinney said he’s excited to be lining up with such a deep BMC squad.

“For me, it’s an honor to be racing with these guys as teammates. Everybody on the team is kind of an idol of mine in the classics and I love these races. I love racing in Belgium,” he said. “I missed the whole early classics season last year due to a knee injury, so first and foremost I’m happy to be here and be healthy and racing. I’m a little bit nervous. I have some butterflies for this weekend, but I’m taking that as a good sign. I’m hoping I can play my part. Any one of us can really win. We have a great team. We’ll be up there for sure.”

Also lining up Saturday is former Tour of Flanders champ Alessandro Ballan, Marcus Burghardt, Greg Van Avermaet, Manuel Quinziato and Michael Schär.

Hushovd, Burghardt and Gilbert will skip Sunday’s Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, with Adam Blythe, Klaas Lodewyck and Danilo Wyss stepping up.

BMC for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (Feb. 25):
Alessandro Ballan (ITA), Marcus Burghardt (GER), Philippe Gilbert (BEL), Thor Hushovd (NOR), Taylor Phinney (USA), Manuel Quinziato (ITA), Michael Schär (SUI), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL).

BMC for Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne (Feb. 26):
Alessandro Ballan (ITA), Adam Blythe (GBR), Klaas Lodewyck (BEL), Taylor Phinney (USA), Manuel Quinziato (ITA), Michael Schär (SUI), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL), Danilo Wyss (SUI).

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