BRUSSELS, Aug 11, 2011 (AFP) – Belgian cycling star Philippe Gilbert is edging closer to signing for American team BMC, according to Belgian press reports quoting the rider’s manager Vincent Wathelet.
“It’s come down to Quick Step and BMC,” said Wathelet in a report by Het Laatste Nieuws Thursday.
Despite not being a three-week stage racer Gilbert, a 29-year-old French-speaking Belgian whose specialties are hilly one-day classics, is currently one of the hottest properties on the market.
Earlier this season Gilbert became only the second rider to win all three ‘Ardennes Classics’ with victory in the Amstel Gold Race, Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
He went on to win the opening stage of the Tour de France in imperious fashion to wear the yellow jersey for a day and, a week after the three-week epic, added the San Sebastian Classic to his growing list of victories.
Wathelet added: “On Tuesday we held discussions with (Quick Step manager) Patrick Lefevere and next week we will speak to (BMC manager) John Lelangue.
“But if it’s coming down to sporting criteria, it’s clear: BMC are ahead of the pack.
“Sporting criteria are very important for Philippe and the Tour de France has reassured him.”
Cadel Evans won the Tour de France yellow jersey last month to become the first Australian winner of the race, helped by a BMC team which was one of the most dominant and well-disciplined in the race.
Earlier this week the American outfit signed Norway’s reigning world champion Thor Hushovd, a friend and training partner of Gilbert, from Garmin-Cervelo.
Gilbert’s current team Omega-Pharma are set to merge with Quick Step at the end of the season.