OUDENAARDE, Belgium (VN) — Greg Van Avermaet looked upset after the Tour of Flanders, standing behind the podium with a furrowed brow.
“I don’t look upset, do I?” the BMC Racing rider asked journalists. “It’s just the situation that I’m in, second in the Tour of Flanders.”
Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) out-sprinted Belgians Van Avermaet, Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) and Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) at the finish in Oudenaarde. The 28 year-old Van Avermaet had to play for the sprint win after an earlier move failed.
But it was not finishing second, but rather Vandenbergh’s refusal to work, that upset Van Avermaet.
Van Avermaet attacked 30km from the finish, after the group started splitting on the Taaienberg and while his teammate, American Taylor Phinney, still rode ahead in the day’s early breakaway. They gained 26 seconds on the chasers, but with his Omega Pharma teammates behind, Vandenbergh would not work.
“I’m disappointed that Vandenbergh didn’t work with me. Okay, he’s not as fast as I am in the sprint, but he would’ve had a good chance to be first or second in Flanders,” Van Avermaet said.
“Looking at it that way, it was a disappointment to work alone. I lost a lot of power doing that because it’s a long way from the Taaienberg to the finish. I put a lot of energy in this attack. Maybe that cost me the victory.”
BMC Racing planned an aggressive race. The team said in the pre-race press conference Friday that it would rally around Van Avermaet with support from its other seven riders, including Thor Hushovd and Phinney.
“It’s what we dreamed about as a team: a team that was in the action, in the front, in the offensive, having other teams chasing,” performance director Allan Peiper said at the team’s bus parked in Oudenaarde’s main square.
“That’s the BMC of the future, an offensive racing team.”
That sounded fine to Van Avermaet.
“Yeah, that’s my kind of racing, I like to race like that and not wait,” he said. “I did a perfect race, I’m happy, but if you’re second you’re disappointed. It’s Flanders, it’s my dream to win Flanders.”
Omega Pharma placed four of its men at the race’s sharp end: three-time winner Boonen, recent Dwars door Vlaanderen winner Niki Terpstra, cyclo-cross world champion Zdenek Stybar, and Vandenbergh.
Vandenbergh refused to work with Van Avermaet, which helped Cancellara and Vanmarcke return after the Paterberg climb with 10.7km to Oudenaarde.
“I couldn’t work, the team didn’t let me. That’s logical, I’m not the fastest guy,” said Vandenbergh. “We hoped that Stybar, Niki or Tom would come back. When I saw they couldn’t come back, I had just one plan, to attack near the golf course, when the road went up there. I did my best with it.”
Likewise, Vanmarcke, second to Cancellara in Paris-Roubaix last year, refused to attack, instead waiting for the sprint.
“I worked to keep it together, I wasn’t strong enough to gamble like Cancellara,” Vanmarcke said. “I already had cramps and I wanted a podium at least. I’m surer of that if we are going in four to the sprint.”
Thus the 259km race came down to a four-man sprint. Only Vandenbergh tried to disrupt it near the golf course, jumping 3.5km out; Van Avermaet marked him immediately. The BMC rider then opened his sprint at 250 meters, but saw Cancellara pass for the sprint win.
Van Avermaet could not stand on the top step of the podium, but BMC thought highly of his performance.
“It’s not Omloop Het Nieuwsblad or the other races, this is one of the major races of the year. We can’t be upset,” Peiper said. “The way he rode dispelled any doubts that people had in him. If you’re beaten by Cancellara, who won a third time, it’s not a bad way to be beaten.”