Van Avermaet, who took the race honors in 2016 and 2017, will have an experienced team behind him Sports Director Valerio Piva said
“Of course, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is an important race for CCC Team as it is the first Classic of the season. We know that Greg is in good shape and is motivated to start the Classics well but there are a lot of riders who can win on Saturday. We will do everything we can to put him in a good position and see how the race plays out.
“Greg will be supported more or less by the same riders who joined him at the Tour of Oman, with the exception of Fransisco Ventoso who replaces Kamil Gradek. We have the local experience from our Belgian riders; Gijs Van Hoecke, Nathan Van Hooydonck, and Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, all go whom train on these roads every day. Michael Schär, who is a valuable road caption, and Łukasz Wiśniowski, who was second at the 2018 edition, complete the squad. We left Oman very happy with the teamwork throughout the week so we are looking forward to seeing these riders race together on the cobbles for the first time this year.”
With a stage win in Valencia and a few near misses in Oman, Van Avermaet is confident ahead of the Classics opener.
“I am feeling really good ahead of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and am excited to start the Classics season. During the winter and early season races, this is what I am always thinking about so it is nice to have the first race here. I think my shape is exactly where it needs to be and I was really impressed by my teammates in Valencia and Oman which was a good sign for the Classics. Although this will be the first cobbled race for us, half of us train together every day in Belgium so we are comfortable as a team.
“The Classics season is long and it’s important to maintain good shape right through to April, which isn’t always easy, but it would be really special to get a good result for CCC Team at opening weekend, so this is definitely the goal.”
Van Avermaet will forgo Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, where the riders will have more of an open role, Piva explained.
“Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne is more of a sprinters’ Classic so we have made the decision that Greg won’t race and instead the other riders will have an opportunity to go for a result. Paweł Bernas, Kamil Gradek and Josef Černy will line up on Sunday to replace Greg, Michael and Łukasz, so between the seven riders we have good options for all race scenarios.
“As we have seen in recent years, it can be difficult to avoid a bunch sprint at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne so we will aim to race aggressively and be part of a small group that goes to the line.”
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (2 March)
Rider Roster: Michael Schär (SUI), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL), Gijs Van Hoecke (BEL), Nathan Van Hooydonck (BEL), Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (BEL), Fransisco Ventoso (ESP), Łukasz Wiśniowski (POL).
Sports Directors: Valerio Piva (ITA), Fabio Baldato (ITA)
Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (3 March)
Rider Roster: Paweł Bernas (POL), Josef Černy (CZE), Kamil Gradek (POL), Gijs Van Hoecke (BEL), Nathan Van Hooydonck (BEL), Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (BEL), Fransisco Ventoso (ESP)
Sports Directors: Valerio Piva (ITA)
Photos courtesy of Cor Vos.