CCC Team leader Greg Van Avermaet has told the Belgian media that he hopes to be in better form for this season's spring Classics, having started his winter training a little later in order to be fresh for them, and will then try to defend his road race title at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The 2017 Paris-Roubaix winner had a relatively lean 2019 by his standards, even though one of his three victories was the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal WorldTour event, but he pointed out that he'd been consistent throughout the season.
"It was a consistent year, and that's sometimes not appreciated by the outside world. Some say I had a bad year, but that's not true at all," Van Avermaet told Sporza.be from a training camp in Tenerife, Spain, on Monday, referring to what were number of top three finishes, with second places at both the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the Clásica San Sebastián, and third at the E3 BinckBank Classic and the GP Cycliste de Québec, besides his three victories in Montreal, a stage win at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and a stage of the Tour de Yorkshire, where he also finished second overall.
His team announced back in November that Van Avermaet would start his winter training later than usual, with a full six weeks off the bike following his final 2019 race – the World Championships road race – in order to try to prevent the 34-year-old from peaking too early in the season and already being tired ahead of the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix in early April, where Van Avermeat finished 10th and 12th, respectively, last year.
"I won in Valencia, I was very good at the Tour of Oman, and the Omloop was one of my best competitions of the year," he said of the first racves of his 2019 campaign. "Looking at it afterwards, you could say that I was in shape a little too early.
"But that was perhaps due to circumstances," Van Avermaet continued. "With our new team, I wanted to get good results right away, and so maybe I was a little too eager.
"So the intention is to be in shape a little later this year, and to peak a little more for Flanders and Roubaix. I will be good in the first races anyway, because I am always consistent, but I'll try to be a little fresher for the biggest Classics," he said, having won Roubaix in 2017.
Olympic title defence plans
Van Avermaet also told Sporza.be that his other big goal for the 2020 season is to try to defend his road race title at the Tokyo Olympic Games in July.
"When you've experienced such a thing [Olympic title], and you have the chance to experience it again four years later, then you'll want to do everything to be at the start and to achieve a good result," he said.
"The course is similar to Rio," Van Avermaet said of the hilly road race course. "It may not be perfect for my body type, but I might be able to achieve something, and so it's mainly a matter of being at the start with good condition."
Taking on the younger generation
While Van Avermaet will turn 35 in May, he said that he believes he still has what it takes to compete at the Classics and one-day races against youngsters like Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
"It is a generation that wants to race, and that motivates you," said Van Avermaet. "When you’re an established rider, you want to prove that you're just as good as them, or can beat them.
"It's always a pleasure to be able to put those men in their place and I hope to be able to do that this year," he joked. "Do I want to show then that I'm not yet worn out? Something like that. I'm going to turn 35, and that starts to count. But it's nice to be able to race against Van Aert and Van der Poel."