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Roubaix winner Van Avermaet still dreams of a Flanders title

ROUBAIX, France (AFP) — Winning Paris-Roubaix may be the dream for many cyclists, but 2017 winner Greg Van Avermaet would still prefer success at home in Flanders.

The 31-year-old took his first monument victory at “The Hell of North” on Sunday, outsprinting Zdenek Stybar and Sebastian Langeveld in the iconic Roubaix velodrome.

But despite earning one of the biggest successes of his life, the Belgian said he’s won a more significant race and admitted he would still prefer a victory at the Tour of Flanders.

“For me, the Olympics is always going to be my biggest victory but it’s nice to have a monument now, otherwise you’ll keep asking, ‘when are you going to win a monument?’” Van Avermaet told journalists in Roubaix.

Until Sunday’s triumph, he had several close calls in monuments during his career, including two runners-up and a third-place finish at Flanders, and both a third and fourth at Roubaix.

“I’m happy that finally I’m in this spot,” he said after his Roubaix victory. “I tried for several years to be sitting here, winning these races — I always believed I could do it.”

But winning in Flanders, where last week he was second despite a late crash, would top Paris-Roubaix success for him.

“I was disappointed after the [Flanders] race for sure because I was starting with the idea that I was going to win,” the 31-year-old said.

“If things happen and you come in second, you have to be disappointed if you had the legs to win.

“But the day after I was the first guy to be happy. I have to say it’s been a great season so far.

“I wasn’t really down, it’s just the way things go — sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I was motivated to do other good races.

“To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to win Roubaix,” Van Avermaet added. “I was going with good motivation to try to do my best and go as far as possible, as I always do.

“Maybe I wasn’t expecting to win but I’m really happy I have Roubaix and next year I will try again for Flanders.”

Van Avermaet has come on in leaps and bounds over the last two years, winning stages at the last two editions of the Tour de France and last July even wearing the leader’s yellow jersey for three days.

Last year, he won his first ever stage race — Tirreno-Adriatico — before adding the Olympic crown in Rio de Janeiro.

This season, Van Avermaet has been in a league of his own in the spring one-day classics, winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, E3 Harelbeke, and Gent-Wevelgem while also claiming second at Strade Bianche.

And he’s not finished yet, as he looks to switch his attention from the cobbles to the hills of the Ardennes classics.

“Next week is Amstel [Gold], it’s a race I like. I also have a feeling I can do something there,” Van Avermaet said. “I will try to enjoy the moment but Amstel is on my program.”

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