Last week, CCC manager Jim Ochowicz confirmed that he is searching for a new sponsor to replace the Polish company and Van Avermaet acknowledged that he was “open to an adventure” should the team disband at the end of this year.
Van Avermaet has been at CCC (previously BMC) since 2011, but he began his professional career at Lotto. Lelangue was part of the management team at BMC when Van Avermaet first joined but he ruled out signing the Olympic champion for Lotto Soudal in an interview with La Dernière Heure.
“No. Greg is a super rider and a person I like, but it wouldn’t make sense to sign a Flemish Classics specialist to a core group that already includes [Philippe] Gilbert, [John] Degenkolb and [Tim] Wellens,” Lelangue said.
“It would be, in my opinion, a lack of respect both to the Olympic champion and to our current strongmen.”
Lotto Soudal overhauled their Classics roster ahead of the 2020 season, allowing Tiesj Benoot to move to Team Sunweb and signing Gilbert and Degenkolb. Gilbert, winner of Paris-Roubaix in 2019, signed a three-year contract that will keep him at Lotto Soudal past his 40th birthday.
Fifteen of Lotto Soudal’s 28-man squad remain under contract for 2021, including sprinter Caleb Ewan, who won a hat-trick of stages in his debut Tour de France last season, and Lelangue does not envisage a radical overhaul of the roster.
“With Gilbert, Wellens, Degenkolb and Ewan still under contract for the coming season, we’re sure to build the team around the same spine,” Lelangue said.
“We obviously hope to re-sign certain riders who are at the end of their contracts and we’ll continue to offer a chance to young international talents or those from our under-23 team.”
The 2020 WorldTour is set to resume with Strade Bianche on August 1, while Milan-San Remo – postponed from March due to the coronavirus pandemic – has been fixed for August 8.
Lelangue admitted that he would have preferred if La Classicissima had been moved to August 22, the week before the Tour de France Grand Départ in Nice – “I saw an athletic and logistical logic in that” – and he suggested that Gilbert and Ewan will lead the Lotto Soudal challenge at Milan-San Remo, rather than 2015 winner John Degenkolb.
“Philippe and Caleb will be our trump cards for what will be the first Monument of the season,” Lelangue said. “The race might unfold in an atypical way this year, but we will have two extremely complementary weapons.”
Ewan will lead Lotto Soudal’s quest for stage wins at the Tour de France, and the Australian and his lead-out train are set to compete at the Tour de Wallonie (August 16-19).
“Philippe should be there too, even if the door is still open for his participation at Il Lombardia [August 18 – ed.]” said Lelangue.
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