Since he first raced Strade Bianche in 2010, Greg Van Avermaet has rarely finished outside the top 10. The CCC Team leader has twice finished second – in 2015 and 2017 – but his worst result in the race came last year when the cold, wet weather sapped his body of the power needed to conquer the sloppy dirt tracks through the rolling hills of Tuscany.
Van Avermaet is anxious to return to the race this year for another crack at the white gravel roads, and his strong performance last weekend at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, where he finished second to Deceuninck-QuickStep's Zdenek Stybar, shows he's got the form to once again contest the win in Siena's Piazza del Campo.
“We saw at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad that Greg Van Avermaet is really strong at the moment," said CCC Team sports director Valerio Piva. "He had a great race, and, with Strade Bianche suiting his characteristics very well, we're aiming for another good result on Saturday.
"Michael Schär and Łukasz Wiśniowski have lined up there before, whereas Josef Černy, Gijs Van Hoecke, Nathan Van Hooydonck and Guillaume Van Keirsbulck will all be discovering the race for the first time," Piva added. "Nevertheless, the team is strong and experienced on this kind of terrain, so we are confident in our selection for Strade Bianche."
The parcours is indeed good for Van Avermaet, the 2017 Paris-Roubaix winner, with 60 kilometres of the 184-kilometre race taking place on the eponymous strade bianche, or white gravel roads. Van Avermaet admitted after his 2018 performance that the day's dismal conditions, with cold temperatures and constant rain, had left him powerless to remain in contention.
"My body couldn’t go deep in this weather, and my legs didn't respond in the way I wanted," Van Avermaet said at the finish of last year's race. "I was disappointed because I really like this race, but there was nothing that I could do."
Van Avermaet will like the weather forecast for the 2019 edition on Saturday, with mostly sunny skies predicted, and temperatures expected around 15C.
"I always look forward to Strade Bianche as it's one of the most beautiful races of the whole season," Van Avermaet said. "My performance at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad gave me a lot of confidence and confirmed that my form is good and where it needs to be at this point in the Classics season. I am always up there at Strade Bianche. I've finished in the top 10 on all but two occasions, and have finished on the podium twice, but never on the top step, so this is a big goal of mine.
"It will be another chance to race together as a team, which is always good, and, this year, the weather looks a lot better than the conditions we faced last year, so we should be in for a really nice race on Saturday."
CCC Team for the 2019 Strade Bianche: Josef Černy, Michael Schär, Greg Van Avermaet, Gijs Van Hoecke, Nathan Van Hooydonck, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Łukasz Wiśniowski