CCC Team rider Greg Van Avermaet continued his podium streak at the spring classics, finishing third at the E3 BinckBank Classic on Friday and again showing top form Sunday as he finished with the lead group at Gent-Wevelgem.
The 2016 Olympic champion said he is locked in and feeling good for the upcoming cobbled monument races, including the Tour of Flanders on April 7.
Van Avermaet rode a near-perfect race at the E3 BinckBank Classic. The 203km race through the Flanders region of Belgium is seen by many as a dress rehearsal for the Tour of Flanders, showcasing many of the same cobblestone roads and climbs as the upcoming monument.
With the help of his CCC Team squad, Van Avermaet made all the right moves and survived all the attacks in the hectic race that packs 15 climbs into its route. With 30km left, he was with a small group containing all the race favorites in pursuit of breakaway leader Bob Jungels. Riding his TCR Advanced SL bike with a special pre-production WheelSystem labeled #overachieve, he attacked on the Tiegemberg climb with 20km to go, further whittling the group down.
“There were too many guys still there and if we wanted to bring Jungels back, we needed a smaller group,” said Van Avermaet, who wore the Giant Pursuit aero road helmet. “Once that front selection was made, we were only turning with three riders and the group behind was coming back, so I knew I had to make another move. There were guys just sitting on so when I attacked and we were just four chasing Jungels, it was perfect.”
Van Avermaet came roaring into the final kilometer with a small group and launched his sprint with 200 meters to go. He ended up third, behind race winner Zdenek Stybar and second-place finisher Wout Van Aert.
“I did everything I could to position myself for the finale and although of course I wanted to win, it is also good to be on the podium again,” he said. “I know that the Tour of Flanders is the race that suits me the most so, I can take confidence knowing that I am good at the moment and hopefully, the best is yet to come.”
Two days later, Van Avermaet was again at the front of the action for the Gent-Wevelgem race in Belgium. With a fast pace, brutal crosswinds and more cobblestone climbs, the 85-year-old classic turned out to be one of the toughest races so far this season. The field split early, putting Van Avermaet on his teammates on high alert, and in the end their team leader was able to finish with the lead group in 20th place.
“I was feeling really good all day,” Van Avermaet said. “I was happy with my legs. It’s a different race than E3 BinckBank Classic and it’s harder for me to win here. I tried to do as good as possible and I’m pretty happy with the climbs.”
Now the CCC Team classics squad puts its focus toward the upcoming week, with Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday and the Tour of Flanders on Sunday.