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BRUSSELS (AFP) — World number one Philippe Gilbert will spearhead Belgium’s hopes of winning cycling’s coveted rainbow jersey at the world road race championships later this month, it was announced Monday.
Gilbert has arguably been the most successful and consistent rider in the peloton this season and his status as team leader for the September 25 race comes amid injury to former world champion Tom Boonen.
Boonen, the champion in 2005, is still recovering from a wrist fracture injury, ruling him out of contending victory on the 266 km elite men’s course
which is said to particularly suit the sprinter. Gilbert is known more for his skills on hilly courses, and while he has been known to mix it up with the sprint specialists in the past he will need all of his tactical acumen if he is to challenge favorites like Britain’s Mark Cavendish, a 20-time stage winner on the Tour de France.
Joining Gilbert for the race will be three teammates from Omega-Pharma — Jurgen Roelandts, Olivier Kaisen and Klaas Lodewyck — with Greg Van Avermaet
(BMC), Johan Vansummeren (Garmin), Kevin De Weert (Quick Step), Bjorn
Leukemans (Vacansoleil) and Nick Nuyens (Saxo Bank) completing the squad.
Earlier this year Gilbert swept all three Ardennes classics — the Amstel Gold, Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege — and went on to win the opening stage at the Tour de France, where he was a contender for the race’s green jersey.
A week after the Tour he won the San Sebastian Classic, and last week won the Quebec Grand Prix.