Greg Van Avermaet and his CCC Team are still on the hunt for breakaway victories in the 2019 Tour de France, but the Belgian star recognises that with just one transition stage remaining, time is anything but on their side.
"That is why we are here, we have no sprinters, no climbers, no GC riders, so we need to do something every day, and our guys keep trying," CCC Team manager Valerio Piva told Cyclingnews after stage 16.
"Lukas [Wisniowski] was up there today, so I'm pleased because we tried. And Greg has not been at his best recently, but he'll keep trying."
Wednesday's transition stage to Gap is the last opportunity for the stage hunters before the race is over, Piva recognised.
With yet another win for Lotto Souda – one of the seven of the 22 Tour teams to take a stage so far along with Deceuninck-QuickStep, Mitchelton-Scott, Jumbo-Visma, Groupama-FDJ, Bora-Hansgrohe and Bahrain-Merida – Van Avermaet recognised that the fight for a breakaway on stage 17 will be an exceptionally tough one.
"I feel OK. The first week was good, and now I'm waiting for a big chance [on Wednesday]. I hope to be up there because it's a good chance for a break," Van Avermaet told Cyclingnews.
"It's really important for us to do a good result tomorrow, but a lot of guys will be interested in doing the same. Today was basically going to be for a sprint, so tomorrow's their best chance."
Compared with other years at this point in the Tour de France, Van Avermaet says "it's tricky to say how I'm going. Every Tour is different and has a different set-up."
"I struggled in the Pyrenees a little bit, with stomach issues, but I feel better now. So we'll see what we can do."
Asked by Belgian radio about the tough weather conditions on Tuesday, Van Avermaet replied: "the heat was always difficult."
"We have to get used to it, but it's something that comes up every year and in the Alps, at least, it's not supposed to be as bad as here."
That said, he recognised he was drinking three bidons an hour at one point during the stage.
As for Wednesday, Van Avermaet – already the King of the Mountains early on in the race – pulled no punches when he called it "my last chance in this year's Tour. I've been in the top 10 four times, but it's not been easy to get away. Stage 17 is good for me, but I'm not the last one to think that."
"It'll be difficult to get in the break, let alone win. But that's the Tour. It's the biggest race in the world."
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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