Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) is ready to take another crack at Milan-San Remo on Saturday after having twice finished inside the top 10, including fifth in the 2016 race won by Arnaud Démare in a large bunch sprint.
The first Monument race of 2019 is a 291km test that finishes in San Remo along the Via Roma. Van Avermaet has so far this season taken just one win, stage 3 at the Volta a Valenciana in Spain, but he's shown he's on form for the Classics with second at Omloop het Nieuwsblad and sixth at Strade Bianche. Van Avermaet is hoping a week of racing in Italy at Tirreno-Adriatico has sharpened the form for the long day ahead on Saturday.
"I felt really good at Tirreno-Adriatico and I take a lot of confidence from the legs I had at the end of those long stages we did there," Van Avermaet said. "It was the perfect preparation race for the upcoming Classics, so I think the whole team benefited from the long stages and difficult parcours."
Van Avermaet will be joined in Milan-San Remo by five of the six riders who raced Tirreno-Adriatico, with Alessandro De Marchi replacing Joey Rosskopf on the roster. Michael Schär, Gijs Van Hoecke, Nathan Van Hooydonck, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck and Łukasz Wiśniowski are making the move with Van Avermaet from Tirreno to Milan-San Remo.
"Greg Van Avermaet is our clear leader," said team director Fabio Baldato. "He is our caption and is looking really good, but we also need to be ready to react to different situations. Alessandro De Marchi is coming in from Paris-Nice with strong form, and the guys from Tirreno-Adriatico are also in good shape, so we need to be smart and be ready to take every opportunity we get in the race.
"The decisive points of Milan-San Remo are the same as usual," Baldato said. "The Cipressa climb and descent and the Poggio climb and descent are the points where the difference can be made, and as we saw last year, [Bahrain-Merida's Vincenzo] Nibali did a great move and avoided a bunch sprint. Most of the time it is a sprint with 30 or 40 riders, but that is the nice thing about the race, it is open for everyone to try something."
Van Avermaet, who will be racing his 12th consecutive 'La Primavera,' also knows that the finale can be a crap shoot and anything can happen on the hills leading into San Remo.
"We all know that despite the length of Milan-San Remo, it can be an easy race to finish but one of the hardest races to win," said the 2016 Olympic champion, who took his first-and-only Monument win in 2017 at Paris-Roubaix.
"It is also one of the most open races in that anyone has a chance if they are still there on the Poggio," he said. "I’ve been in the top 10 on two occasions and I know I can do a good performance, particularly if we race hard as I can do a good sprint after a long, hard race. Anything can happen at a race like Milan-San Remo so I will give everything I have on Saturday."
CCC Team for Milan-San Remo: Alessandro De Marchi, Michael Schär, Greg Van Avermaet, Gijs Van Hoecke, Nathan Van Hooydonck, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Łukasz Wiśniowski