Team leader Greg Van Avermaet led the way with an eighth-place finish at the rescheduled Strade Bianche one-day classic in Italy. The Belgian survived a grueling 184km route including 11 sectors of gravel (63km total) on the famous white roads of Tuscany, for which the race is named, to land the top-10 finish.
Already known as one of the hardest races on the calendar, this year’s Strade Bianche was made even more challenging with the move from its originally scheduled March date to August. Temperatures were much hotter (36 degrees C/97 degrees F) than they are in the spring and the gravel roads were loose, dusty and dry.
“It was really one of the hardest days of my career on the bike,” Van Avermaet said. “Like I expected, it was super warm and the gravel was quite tricky. I managed to always be up there in a good position in every sector and I was feeling really good for a long time. But I also felt the heat and the first big effort took something out of me and I lost it a little bit.”
Riding his TCR Advanced SL Disc bike with a CADEX 42 Disc WheelSystem and wearing the Giant Rev Pro helmet, Van Avermaet made a decisive move in the fifth sector of gravel when a group of 40 riders split off the front. The 2016 Olympic champion was joined by teammates Alessandro De Marchi and Simon Geschke, making it a strong effort for CCC Team. That group continued to be whittled down over the gravel sectors until there were just eight, including Van Avermaet, with 40km to go.
“I was there in the first group, but I also thought to myself just try and follow the guys as long as possible and that would already be good,” Van Avermaet said. “I’m quite happy with how it went. I was quite sick after the finish so I know how deep I went.”
In other race action during the restart week, Spaniard Victor de la Parte led the way at the Vuelta a Burgos, a mountainous five-day stage race in Spain held July 28-August 1. Considered a key warm-up race for grand tour hopefuls, the race featured some fierce battles in the mountains, and de la Parte was always in the mix, ultimately finishing 11th in the general classification.
“It has been a really tough week at the Vuelta a Burgos with a WorldTour level peloton,” de la Parte said. “We had a little bit of everything thrown at us in the five days of racing so it was definitely a good way to restart the season. I am pleased with what I did and where my shape is.”
The first week of racing since the restart also included the start of La Route d’Occitanie – La Dépêche du Midi in France. The four-day stage race is being held August 1-4 with a number of Tour de France hopefuls competing. Josef Černy, 2018 Czech national champion in the road race and time trial, got off to a strong start for CCC Team, finishing seventh in a sprint finish on Stage 1. On Stage 2, Polish national champion Michal Paluta moved into the lead in the youth classification.
“We were all really happy to be back racing,” said Černy, who rode his TCR Advanced SL Disc bike and wore the Giant Pursuit aero road helmet. “It was a tough start, especially with the temperature hitting 42 degrees Celsius. In the end I felt a little bit tired from the heat but we wanted to try to show our CCC Team jersey in the finale, and seventh place is not a bad place to start the season again with.”