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Classics-bound Van Avermaet making season debut in Spain

Several of CCC Team's classics riders head to Valencia to build form and team cohesion.

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Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) clicks his 2019 season into gear this week at the Volta a Valenciana with eyes on hitting his stride in time for the northern classics.

The reigning Olympic champion races for the first time since finishing 50th in the world championships in Austria.

A lot’s changed since then, at least externally for Van Avermaet. His team colors are now orange with CCC, yet his goals of targeting the northern classics remain eternal.

“Of course, this race isn’t one of my biggest goals of the year,” Van Avermaet said. “I want to get my season off to a good start just like we saw the guys do in Australia. We will take the race day by day but the ambition is always to try to win races and that won’t be different here. My main goal is to keep building my shape.”

Change is in the air, but the goals remain the same. The Spanish race starts Wednesday with a team time trial and features some hard terrain that will see the likes of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Luis León Sánchez (Astana) gunning for the overall. Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas also makes his season debut in Valencia along Spain’s usually mild Mediterranean Coast.

Van Avermaet, 33, will test his legs and see how some of his new teammates work together. Not only is it his first race with CCC Team, but he’s also testing out a new kit with Etxeondo and a new bike with Giant after racing on a BMC frame since 2011.

“It will be the first time I race with some of my new teammates,” Van Avermaet said. “There are some riders in this group who will play a part in my classics campaign and as we are new to one another, it will be good to see how everyone reacts when we move from training together to racing together.”

Van Avermaet will use the five-day Volta a la Valenciana to stretch his legs. Up next are the Tour of Oman before diving straight into the spring classics, with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on March 2, followed by Strade Bianche on March 9.

Van Avermaet’s biggest dates come in late March into April. A winner of Paris-Roubaix in 2017, Van Avermaet would love to win on home roads in the Tour of Flanders on April 7. Van Avermaet will get his first glance of new key teammates, including Gijs Van Hoecke and Guillaume Van Keirsbulck.

If Van Avermaet wants to take it to the likes of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Deceuninck-Quick-Step during Flanders, he knows he needs his team firing at all cylinders.

“Flanders is the dream race for me,” he said. “It is important to have the confidence of all of the riders going into a race and before the classics start it will be good to learn more about each other. This will be the perfect exercise for us all.”

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