AFP / Yuzuru Sunada
Britain’s former Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins will race the Tour of Flanders on Sunday for the first time since 2005, his Sky team have confirmed. The 33-year-old, who became the first British rider to win the fabled Tour de France in 2012 will also use the race to prepare for the Paris-Roubaix, the following weekend, one of his principle early season objectives. In his only participation to date, he finished 81st nine years ago. Compatriot Geraint Thomas, who finished third in the GP E3 last Friday, before a crash two days later in the Gent-Wevelgem, is also included although current Tour de France champion Chris Froome will miss the event. British team Sky, will also line up with Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen, who came home third in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad behind Sky’s triumphant Ian Stannard, at the beginning of March. Stannard is not included in Sky’s eight man team due to injury.
Elsewhere, American team BMC announced former world champion Philippe Gilbert will not, as expected, race the one-day classic on Sunday. The Belgian rider, who won the world title in 2012 and finished third in the Belgian race in 2009 and 2010, has opened the way for compatriot and teammate Greg Van Avermaet to lead the team in his absence. Van Avermaet finished 4th in 2012 on the race, which starts in Bruges on April 6 and runs over 259.2km to Audenarde, as well as coming home seventh in last year’s rendition. BMC will also look to Norwegian veteran Thor Hushovd, Italian Manuel Quinziato and Swiss youngster Silvain Dillier, 23, to challenge for honors.
Defending champion Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland will also be on the start line as part of a strong Trek team that also includes double winner Stijn Devolder of Belgium. Cancellara, 33, won the race by a comfortable 1min 27secs last year, and also crossed the line first in 2010 while Devolder picked up his victories in 2008 and 2009. Nicknamed “Spartacus”, Cancellara has won eight stages on the Tour de France and worn the leader’s yellow jersey on numerous occasions, as well as being a former Olympic and world champion time-trialist. The Berne native has also won the Paris-Roubaix in 2006, 2010 and 2013, a title he is set to defend the following weekend.