Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) is set to make his season debut at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana on Wednesday as his team take aim at the Spanish race and, in particular, the stage 3 team time trial.
The American squad were unable to keep their status as world champions in the discipline after being beaten by Team Sunweb in Bergen in September, and will look for redemption in the race in addition to going for stage wins with Van Avermaet.
"We have a tradition in this team to target the team time trial so that is one of our objectives at the race and, like last year, we want to win," directeur sportif Valerio Piva said in a press release. "It's the third stage and it's a technical parcours.
"We also want to win an individual stage and for this we have Greg Van Avermaet, who is our road captain, as well as Jürgen Roelandts for a sprint finish."
Van Avermaet, the number one-ranked rider in the world last season, is ready to put a solid off-season of training to the test.
"I'm feeling pretty good and I'm happy with my winter. We have trained hard in Spain before the race so I'm happy to finally put my training efforts to the test in the race," Van Avermaet said. "Everybody always looks forward to the first race of the season. We are motivated again for the team time trial, which we won last year, as it's a nice way to start the season. The parcours is a little different from last year but I think we are one of the favourites there."
The Olympic champion's goals are further down the road at the Classics, so he says he is hoping just to feel good in the race rather than go for a result.
"Sometimes the best thing you can take out of a race is a good feeling on a climb or something else like that, and I hope to finish the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana with this feeling," Van Avermaet said.
The race also marks the return of Brent Bookwalter and Kilian Frankiny, both of whom were injured late last season. Bookwalter suffered a head injury in a crash at the Tour of Britain and had to renounce his place in the USA team for Worlds. It was his first experience with a concussion, he said, and his recovery took a bit longer than expected.
"I feel like I'm back to a good level and can start racing. I've never done the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana before so I'm always excited to do a new race, especially after 11 years with the team. It fits well with our training camps as we ride these roads in Valencia every year," Bookwalter said.
"My biggest objective is to improve my condition and my confidence going into the rest of the season. Coming off my first time dealing with a head injury, my confidence definitely took a hit. To get back into my first race and get through it safely is important."
Frankiny fractured his femur in a crash at the Vuelta a España, and will toe the line for the first time in five months.
"I'm well prepared having done a lot of good training at home and at our training camps," he said. "Stage 2 will be pretty hard. The last climb we know from stage 6 of the Vuelta a España and it's a very steep climb. We will see how many guys make the selection and I hope I can be in the front group. Then of course, the team time trial is a big objective for the whole team as everyone knows that BMC Racing Team is really good in the discipline."
BMC for the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana: Brent Bookwalter, Alessandro De Marchi, Kilian Frankiny, Stefan Küng, Jürgen Roelandts, Michael Schär, Greg Van Avermaet.