Van Avermaet has regularly finished in the top 10 at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and went on to win the race last year, ahead world champion Peter Sagan. It signalled the start of a strong spring but his Classics ambitions were cut short when he crashed at the Tour of Flanders. After surgery to mend a fractured ankle over the winter, Van Avermaet has had a solid start to 2017 but the opening weekend of the Classics, he says, will be the first real test of where he’s at ahead of his major targets a few weeks down the line.
"I've had a good start to the season in Spain and Oman, but there is nothing like racing on home soil," said Van Avermaet. "Having won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last year, for sure I want to come back and do well again at both races. It will be a good indication of my form at this time of the year, knowing that my big goals are to come in April.”
Supporting Van Avermaet at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad will be a mixture of youth and experience. New signing Francisco Ventoso is in the line-up, along with other Classics veterans Daniel Oss and Martin Elmiger. Michael Schar, Jempy Drucker, Floris Gerts and Stefan Kung complete the line-up.
Van Avermaet will race the following day at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne but the focus will be on the sprinting members of the squad, with Drucker and Oss the key riders. There will be a few changes to the line-up too, with Ventoso, Gerts and Schar giving way for Tom Bohli, Silvan Dillier and Australian champion Miles Scotson.
"We're excited to be racing again at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and this time with the defending champion, Greg Van Avermaet, in our ranks. The opening weekend in Belgium means that the cycling season is well and truly underway, and now that the race is UCI WorldTour we are even more determined to do well. Greg will have a very strong team around him for both races, with more of a focus on the sprinters for Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne on Sunday," said directeur sportive Valerio Piva.
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne will take place on February 25 and 26.
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