You can have too much of a good thing, and Greg Van Avermaet's teammates for the spring Classics made a simple but crucial error in 2019: they were over-motivated.
The Olympic champion was consistent throughout the spring but was unable to trouble the podiums, and has been frank in saying he lacked support at key moments in the race.
He was optimistic about the group assembled as BMC Racing became CCC Team, with Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Nathan Van Hooydonck, Gijs Van Hoecke and Lukasz Wizniowski joining Michael Schar, who was staying on the team. Yet, despite some positive signs in the early races and training sessions, the squad fell flat when it mattered.
Speaking to Cyclingnews at a team training camp last month, Van Keirsbulck explained they all did too much, too soon.
"The problem last year was we went really hard at the training camps. Everyone was so motivated because it was a new team, and a new group for Greg, and everyone was scared to be dropped. As a result, everyone was in shape too quickly," he said.
"If you look at everyone's condition, in Valencia and Oman everyone was already flying. After that, when we went to the Classics, everyone was in worse shape and we lacked numbers. I started my work too early, and then it went too fast in the finales. It was tough."
It's not a mistake they'll be making twice.
"I think the team now knows the problem from last year. Everyone has been taking it a bit easier," Van Keirsbulck said. "Some guys are letting themselves be dropped if it's too hard, because it's much better to do that than force your body and be in the right shape at the wrong time."
Van Keirsbulck's own performances in 2019 were further compromised by a string of crashes and health issues.
He had a three-day fever before his first race in Valencia, and fell ill again during the Opening Weekend of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. After a post-Classics break, an elbow wound from a crash became infected and he didn't make the Tour de France team, returning at the Tour de Wallonnie to come down with food poisoning.
"The whole season was like that – the same shit," Van Keirsbulck said.
"My haematocrit was all the time up and down because I was always sick, and my body was weak, and then I'd recover and start training again and the blood would be good again, but then I'd get sick and it would be bad again. I was really disappointed because I was really ready to help Greg win races."
In 2020, Van Keirsbulck will not only be helping Van Avermaet win races, but also Matteo Trentin, CCC Team's new signing. The pair know each other well from their time at QuickStep, with both riding for the Belgian team between 2012 and 2016.
"I think Matteo will go a bit his own way, like in other years. Sometimes, at Orica, he found his own way in the bunch and I saw that he sometimes didn't need a team, actually. For the sprints he needs his team, but the Classics are different," Van Keirsbulck said.
"The relationship between Greg and Matteo is good. Greg doesn't make problems with other riders and Matteo is also a classy guy. You never know – sometimes there are discussions in the bus after races, but I don't think there should be any problems. QuickStep also work like that."
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.
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