The 2020 Tour of Flanders just had a surprise addition to the start list, as Mark Cavendish will ride the Belgian Monument for the first time since 2011.
But the race will also be missing one of the favourites, as CCC Team’s Greg Van Avermaet has decided to miss the race after suffering multiple fractures in Liege-Bastogne-Liege earlier this month.
Cavendish has been racing the Classics block in Belgium in recent weeks through a lot of uncertainty for the Manxman.
The 35-year-old has been in talks with his Bahrain-McLaren team for a new contract beyond 2020, while the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in the cancellation of some Classics.
But despite fearing Ghent-Wevelgem last weekend may have been the last race of his career, Cavendish will return to the cobbled roads of Belgium for the Tour of Flanders on Sunday (October 18).
Cavendish has only raced Flanders twice in his career, in 2010 and 2010, abandoning the race on his debut and then finishing 110th the following year.
But the Manxman has taken on a different role in Belgium this autumn, jumping into the breakaway of Ghent-Wevelgem and is likely to support Sonny Colbrelli on Sunday.
Flanders isn’t expected to be Cavendish’s last race of the year however, as he is also expected to line up in the Three Days of De Panne next week.
Meanwhile, Van Avermaet had hoped to race in Flanders, which is a huge goal for the Belgian, but after suffering a collapsed lung and fractured vertebrae in a crash two weeks prior, he left the decision on whether to start until the final moments.
He has now opted to skip the race, for fear of crashing again and compounding his injuries.
Van Avermaet said: “This was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make in my racing career. I think my heart is saying one thing and my head is saying another but at the end of the day, I know the smartest decision is to not race on Sunday.
“I wouldn’t want to race Ronde van Vlaanderen just to make up the numbers or to finish in 50th place. It’s a race I still dream of winning but that won’t be happening in 2020. Now, I will concentrate on my recovery and give my body the best chance to heal ahead of the 2021 season.”
Instead Matteo Trentin will lead CCC.