Greg Van Avermaet heads to Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad quietly confident about his form after a strong showing at last week's Volta ao Algarve. The CCC Team leader impressed on the climbing stages and ended up 13th overall, his best early-season GC result in the past four years.
Van Avermaet was among the lead group of climbers on both the Alto da Fóia and Alto do Malhão, taking 15th place on each stage to show he has good legs at this early point in the season.
The Olympic champion is known for his form in the early season, taking seven top five placings at Omloop during his career, including wins in 2016 and 2017.
"I'll do both race and I think I have good results at Omloop so far during the last five or six years," he told Cyclingnews.
"I'm already confident that it'll be good this year. It's a good parcours for me, and hopefully the weather stays ok. I think I'll be up there.
"Winning is a different thing – there are lots of factors in play there, but it's most important that you can play your cards in the final."
This weekend's races are set to run in poor weather conditions though, with wind and rain likely to hit Omloop and Sunday's Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. Still, Van Avermaet has shown that he can get results in bad weather, taking second at a grim Omloop back in 2014.
No matter the weather, success at the race would relieve some pressure going forward, he said. With a near-full complement of spring Classics on the menu, taking an early triumph would certainly calm the nerves.
"I always say if you can win Nieuwsblad there's something in the bank of winning already," he said. "It's a big race. It's not like Flanders or Roubaix, but it's something.
"If you can start from this, you'll go with a little bit less pressure to all the big Classics like I did in 2017. For me it's perfect, because if you have something then the rest comes a bit easier."
Linking up with Matteo Trentin at CCC Team
From 20°C and summit finishes in Algarve to maybe half that temperature and cobbled hills in Flanders, the change from weekend to weekend is a big one, and the racing, while good for the legs is totally different too.
Van Avermaet said that the benefit from his positive results is universal, though, even if strong results on hilltop finishes won't directly correlate with outcomes on the bergs between Gent and Ninove on Saturday.
"I'm happy with how things are going. My condition is really good and I'm climbing really well. I tried to do my best and animate Valencia and Algarve as much as possible.
"It's a different kind of effort than the Classics, but it gives a sign of the condition.I think my weight is really good – it's a bit like after the Tour and I tried to focus a little bit on this and see how it comes for the Classics, but as I said it's hard to measure because the efforts in the Classics are a little bit different than on a long climb."
The 34-year-old is set to link up with new CCC Classics co-leader Matteo Trentin once again at the weekend. The pair have raced together at Valencia and Algarve so far, but Omloop will be the first real test of their new partnership.
Jonas Koch, Michael Schär, Gijs Van Hoecke, Nathan Van Hooydonck and Guillaume Van Keirsbulck will join the pair at Omloop.
Earlier in the week, Trentin, a new addition from Mitchelton-Scott, said that the goal this spring is simply to win, whoever does it. Van Avermaet said the same, adding that the co-leadership will be a dynamic partnership going forward.
"I think we are co-leaders and we will work for each other," he said.
"It depends how the parcours fits. We've already done some sprints together and we've tried to do as good as possible.
"I think we can take benefits from each other in the Classics, and hopefully we can come out with a big win – that's the goal for the team."
#TBT @OmloopHNB (📸 Photonews & DigitalClickx) pic.twitter.com/RcylEgdpR3February 27, 2020
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