The Belgian - who won Tirreno-Adriatico and leads BMC hopes for the cobbled Classics, completed a two-hour training ride on Saturday and declared himself fit to race, even if he not yet at 100 per cent.
Van Avermaet is expected to take on the Classic riders and sprinters in the new-look Gent-Wevelgem that includes a steeper climb on the Kemmel and other climbs in the finale of the 243km race. He faces the likes of Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), Fernando Gaviria (Etixx-QuickStep), Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo), Elia Viviani (Team Sky) and Milan-San Remo winner and French rival Arnaud Demare.
He will be backed by a strong BMC team that includes the USA’s Taylor Phinney, who is returning to race in Belgium for the first time since his career-threatening accident in the 2014 US national road race championships.
“Today I felt okay. I did some efforts and I felt pretty good and better than yesterday. I’m not sure I’m 100 per cent but this way I think it’s possible to race tomorrow,” Van Avermaet said in a video posted by BMC on social media.
“I don’t want to miss another race. I’m not 100 per cent yet and I hope to get better in afternoon and there’s still one night to go. I hope to be there because Gent-Wevelgem for sure is a really nice race.”
BMC has been hit by several injuries and illness in recent weeks. Van Avermaet was expected to be a major contender for E3 Harelbeke after going so close to victory in Wednesday’s Dwars door Vlaanderen - where he was caught in sight of the line after making a bold solo attack. Instead he had to watch the race from the BMC hotel as his teammates Jempy Drucker and Daniel Oss finished ninth and tenth, behind winner Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky).
“It was pretty terrible to watch the race on television,” Van Avermaet admitted. “I like to watch Pais Vasco or Catalunya on TV but watching the Flemish Classics was not a good feeling. I wasn’t part of group and the BMC team and so I felt terrible to be alone in the team hotel.”
“The guys did a good race. It was a pity I wasn’t there because we could maybe have had three guys in the front group and so maybe do something. But it is like it is. I think all the guys are in good shape for the races to come and that gives me confidence too.”
Watch the video below for the full list of our riders to watch at E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem and let us know who you think will win in the comments below.
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