Greg Van Avermaet's dream of finally winning the Tour of Flanders - his home Monument and a race he's competed in every year since turning pro in 2007 - is over for 2020. The Belgian, injured in a crash in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, said the choice was "one of the most difficult decisions I've had to make in my racing career."
Van Avermaet crashed into an unprotected signpost on a traffic island midway through Liège-Bastogne-Liège, suffering a separated shoulder and three broken ribs. More seriously, a minor pneumothorax (collapsed portion of his lung) and fractures to the transverse process of his first thoracic vertebra led to the decision not to race.
"I think my heart is saying one thing and my head is saying another, but at the end of the day I know the smartest decision is to not race on Sunday," Van Avermaet said.
"My legs actually feel really good and that makes the decision even harder because I think with these legs I could do a good result, but the risk is too high and I know I could do more damage if I was to crash again. Even today in the recon, although I was feeling good, I started to feel some pain after one hour, and a six-hour race is something else entirely."
Van Avermaet has won Paris-Roubaix, Gent-Wevelgem, E3 Harelbeke and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, but the biggest cobbled classic in Belgium has eluded him over 13 seasons, with two second places in 2017 and 2014 and a third place in 2015 his best results.
"I wouldn't want to race Ronde van Vlaanderen just to make up the numbers or to finish in 50th place. It's a race I still dream of winning but that won't be happening in 2020. Now, I will concentrate on my recovery and give my body the best chance to heal ahead of the 2021 season," he said.
With Van Avermaet out, the CCC Team will back Matteo Trentin, who has had a strong run of results, including third in Gent-Wevelgem last week in this late-season, upside-down, coronavirus Classics schedule.
"I am feeling good," Trentin said. "We did a nice recon today and I could turn my legs and taste the cobbles again because we only had less than one kilometer of cobbles in Gent-Wevelgem and, of course, we don't have the usual approach with the other cobbled Classics. We haven't had a warm up on the cobbles with all the races before but I'm still feeling ready for Sunday.
"To win Ronde van Vlaanderen you need to be the smartest of the group. There are a few guys like [Wout] Van Aert and [Julian] Alaphilippe who probably have a bit better legs than everyone else, but behind there are eight to 10 guys who can win so it's quite open. We will try to be there in the mix.
"In Gent-Wevelgem, the team did a really good job and these races are all about saving the legs and being fresh when the race kicks off, which is usually after the second time up the Kwaremont. I think we will see an aggressive race after that point, especially as the race is shorter this year. We've been racing full gas in every race and I expect nothing less on Sunday," added Trentin.
CCC Team for Tour of Flanders: Jonas Koch, Michael Schär, Matteo Trentin, Gijs Van Hoecke, Nathan Van Hooydonck, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Francisco Ventoso.
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