The coronavirus pandemic has seen the cycling calendar grind to a halt in Europe and beyond, and it is altogether too soon to hazard a guess as to when competition will resume.
CCC Team were among the seven WorldTour teams to withdraw from Paris-Nice following the postponement of Tirreno-Adriatico, and the Belgian spent the past week training in Sierra Nevada in the forlorn hope that the hiatus might be a temporary one. The E3 BinckBank Classic and Gent-Wevelgem have already been postponed, and formal confirmation that the Tour of Flanders will not take place is expected imminently.
“Normally, I would be working at Tirreno now, but instead I’m at home," Van Avermaet told Sporza. "I came back from Sierra Nevada on Friday, and now I’m waiting at home to see what will happen. I’m also trying to follow up on government measures and to be at home much as possible at home and limit contacts.
"Mentally, it is quite difficult to train now. It wasn’t easy in Spain. Normally, you are now putting the finishing touches on the spring classics in Paris-Nice or the Tirreno. Now it is just training to maintain the condition.”
The Tour of Flanders is the race that Van Avermaet covets above all others and, at 35 years of age, he is running out of opportunities to inscribe the Ronde on his palmarès, but he is mindful that a postponed bike race is a very minor concern in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“There are worse things in the world," Van Avermaet said.
“It’s a pity, because we have been working towards a certain goal all winter. But it’s the same for everyone in society, that they cannot do what they want to do. Public health is more important than our sport at the moment. We'll see when we can start again.”
Olympic champion in Rio four years ago, Van Avermaet is hopeful that he will have the chance to defend that title on an equally demanding course in Tokyo on July 25.
Although Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe insisted over the weekend that the 2020 Olympics would go ahead, there are increasing doubts about the viability of holding the Games. Yet Van Avermaet sees it as something to aim for after the loss of the spring Classics.
“Let's hope the Olympics go ahead. I think that will be one of the main goals,” said Van Avermaet, who is also holding out hope that alternative dates for the Spring Classics could be found at the end of the season.
“It would be nice to be able to ride a number of Classics in the Autumn, if there is still space on the calendar. For the specialists one-day specialists like me, that would be fun. Otherwise it will be a missed opportunity.”
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