The Belgian one-day specialist has the weight of his team on his shoulders
Greg Van Avermaet will chase Tour of Flanders and Yorkshire World Championships success as the sole leader of the new CCC Team in 2019.
The Belgian Classics maestro has stepped up to the top spot in the new Polish WorldTour team after the departure of the general classification hopefuls from the former BMC team.
But Van Avermaet seems comfortable, and confident, as he carries the team’s hopes into the new season.
Speaking at the first CCC training camp in Dénia, eastern Spain last week, the 33-year-old said: “With BMC we had three leaders, with Richie and Rohan in different places.
“Now I’ve got to be the only leader in the team for Classics, so if the Classics go wrong then we’re going to have a problem with the team. Before, Richie or Rohan could have still got results and performed.
“I know what I’m capable of. Most of the races I’m there in the top-10 but it would be nice to win in this team, to take the pressure off and to launch the team for the next year.”
After posing for a dozen team photos (where he sat front and centre), Van Avermaet spoke with journalists during a roundtable event in the team hotel in Dènia.
He said he decided to stay with CCC, which is formed from the DNA of the BMC Racing Team, out of loyalty after eight years racing for the outfit.
A lot has changed during the transition, most notably the departure of star riders like Richie Porte and Rohan Dennis, who left before the new sponsor was confirmed.
Van Avermaet is not the man to lead CCC to Grand Tour success, but his exploits still generate plenty of excitement for cycling disciples.
In 2018, he won the overall at the Tour de Yorkshire and held the yellow jersey at the Tour de France for more than a week.
But he fell short in the early season where he traditionally shines, his strongest Classics results third in E3 Harelbeke and fourth in Paris-Roubaix, which he won in 2017.
One race that has always eluded the amiable Flandrien, the Tour of Flanders, is high on his priority list for next season.
“It’s Flanders,” he said.
“I say it every year and it never comes. I think this is the race that fits me the best and I’m always saying Flanders, which is expected I think.
“I haven’t won it yet. I’ve been on the podium so many times and I’m super motivated.
“In Classics we have a really strong team. I don’t see any big difference compared to last year. I think we have seven or eight really good guys on paper. I think our strength is going to be almost equal to last year.”
Van Avermaet will need to hit the ground running and make the most of his premiership role in 2019, as CCC are already on the hunt for a new leader in Grand Tours.
Team bosses have been clear they desire a Polish leader to captain the Polish team, with Michał Kwiatowski and Rafał Majka both receiving honourable mentions from sports directors.
And in the later season, Van Avermaet is looking ahead to the Yorkshire 2019 World Championships, bolstered by his success in the Tour de Yorkshire.
He said: “It’s a good course for me. I like the distance, it’s super long. It’s going to be a hard race. It’s good for me.
“The problem is by the Worlds I’ve had a really long season and sometimes I need some extra freshness in the legs to win at the Worlds.
“I’m going to try to do the combination again, do the Classics and Tour, which is really important, and then try to build up again to the Worlds.
“Yorkshire is a race I love. I’ve been three times and it’s a parcours that suits me. Every time I go there I get good results, so lets hope I can show it in the one-day race.
“I’m looking forward to the atmosphere already.”