The team came into this year’s Tour de France with a plan to be aggressive. The goal was to seek out every opportunity, animate the race, and aim for stage wins. With that in mind, CCC Team can look back at some emotional highs and lows in those first 10 days.
The opening weekend in Brussels was of particular interest to team leader Greg Van Avermaet, who lives in the area and was keen on giving the home fans something to cheer for. The current Olympic champion did just that, seizing the polka-dot King of the Mountains jersey on Stage 1.
Riding his TCR Advanced SL team bike, Van Avermaet made a savvy move at the start of the 192km stage that wound through familiar spring classics roads including the iconic Mur de Grammont climb. Cheered on by the home crowd, Van Avermaet joined an early four-man breakaway, working up a lead of 3:25 by the 20km mark.
“I was very motivated to do something on my home soil,” Van Avermaet said. “It’s probably the only time in career when the Tour de France includes the Mur, which is close to my home and it’s always special when you get to race in front of your home fans, friends and family.”
On stage 2 the team broke out their Trinity Advanced Pro time trial machines, along with their CADEX Aero WheelSystems and Giant Rivet TT helmets, clocking a solid 7th place in the 27.6km team time trial in Brussels.
Stage 3 took riders across the border into France, and Van Avermaet put in another solid performance to finish the 215km stage to Épernay in fourth place. He surrendered the polka-dot jersey but showed good form that would carry him through the next week.
Also showing good form was Swiss rider Michael Schär. After attacking from the start on Stage 4, Schär was aggressive all day long, driving a small breakaway and refusing to relent ahead of a determined chase. He was finally caught 15km from the line, but Schär’s exploits earned him the Most Combative Rider award for the day.
“There is always a chance,” Schär said. “It was a long day out there, but I tried and I think it’s good to have something in the evening. A combative prize is at least a little something. I think we had a good start to this Tour with the polka-dot jersey and the team time trial was quite satisfying. I think we should keep that momentum going and try something every day until we get rewarded.”
In the following days Van Avermaet would follow through on that goal, sprinting to three more top-10 stage finishes. Schär also continued to show his fighting spirit, joining a long breakaway on a tough Stage 10 that saw decisive splits in a day of punishing crosswinds.
The team also had its share of bad breaks through the opening week, with two of its key riders, Patrick Bevin and Alessandro De Marchi, forced to abandon due to injuries from crashes.
Bevin sustained two fractured ribs in a crash on Stage 4. Sadly, De Marchi suffered more serious injuries from a crash on Stage 9. One day after showing his strength in a long Stage 8 breakaway effort, the Italian sustained a broken clavicle, ribs and lung contusion in a crash that occurred just 10km into the race.
“I’m disappointed to interrupt my tradition of finishing grand tours, as this will be the first time I had to abandon one,” De Marchi said. “I’m fortunate that my injuries are not worse than they are. I’m looking forward to getting back on the bike as soon as possible.”
Now the team turns its attention to the next week, which serves up some tough mountain stages in the Pyrenees in the south of France, plus a Stage 13 time trial in Pau. From there they tackle a number of iconic high mountains including the Col de Tourmalet followed by the second and final rest day in Nîmes.