Popular Australian Tour de France champion Cadel Evans and Philippe Gilbert will race together as BMC teammates for the first time this season at Saturday’s Strade Bianche.
Gilbert will enter the one-day Italian race as defending champion with Alessandro Ballan, emerging British sprinter Adam Blythe, George Hincapie, Martin Kohler, Marco Pinotti and Greg Van Avermaet set to round out the BMC squad.
The 190km race will be Evans’s third for the season after last week’s GP di Lugano as well as the Trofeo Palma de Mallorca.
Evans finished 30th at Strade Bianche last year before going on to win a stage and overall honours at Tirreno-Adriatico, which he returns to next month.
Gilbert had a quiet showing on home turf at Het Nieuwsblad last week. And he may be on different form to that of this time last year in lieu of another heavy season that includes the Spring Classics, the July Tour de France and Olympic Games double header as well as the Vuelta a Espana and the world championships.
The 2011 UCI No.1 Gilbert has seen Evans at team training camps and recognises the impact the yellow jersey has had on the BMC Tour leader. The two are not unfamiliar to one another having both represented Silence-Lotto in 2009.
“With Lotto he was already a top rider but now after winning a Tour it’s something different,” Gilbert said.
“I see now the people coming into the hotel, they search for Cadel. Before they didn’t know Cadel Evans, they knew him but not like now.
“I saw the difference when people came inside the hotel in Spain and were like, ‘Where is Cadel Evans?’ Just asking for him! It’s the Tour effect. It makes a big difference; you have more attention from the big public.”
Cycling Central will live stream Strade Bianche from 12.30am Sunday (AEST).