OUDENAARDE, Belgium (VN) — BMC Racing says that the team and its star Greg Van Avermaet “underestimated” the early racing-winning move on the Tour of Flanders’s cobbled Muur climb. Van Avermaet, one of the pre-race favorites, left the race “disappointed” Sunday with second place.
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Van Avermaet — winner in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, E3 Harelbeke, and Gent-Wevelgem — began as one of the top favorites with Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and eventual winner Philippe Gilbert (Quick Step Floors).
“I began with the win in mind, so I’m disappointed to finish runner-up,” the Belgian star said Sunday as the last rays of sun shined on Oudenaarde and the fields in Flanders.
“You have to be disappointed. With the crash and the way things happened. Fine, chapeau to Gilberto [Philippe Gilbert] for winning solo like that.”
Van Averment made up ground on Gilbert, riding with Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale) in the closing kilometers. They had him at 59 seconds with 16.9 kilometers, and just the Paterberg climb, left.
However, disaster struck. Sagan clipped a fan’s jacket propped on the barriers, crashed and caused a following Van Avermaet and Naesen to tumble as well.
“And the race was over,” Van Avermaet added. “We shouldn’t have been there in the left gutter, but you take risks in a race final. We were getting close to Philippe, and if I had remained with them we could have moved closer on him.”
Those two stars, Sagan and Van Avermaet, remained on the back foot after BMC “underestimated” an early move on the re-introduced cobbled Muur climb. With 95 kilometers to race, Tom Boonen caused a split and pulled away a group of 14. Boonen looked around after they passed the chapel on top and counted two Quick-Step teammates, Matteo Trentin and Philippe Gilbert. Sagan failed to make it, but he had his teammate Maciej Bodnar. BMC was not in the move.
“We were a bit distracted and we underestimated the situation at that point,” BMC’s sport director Fabio Baldato explained.
“We tried to take the course in hand and recover, and we almost pulled it off. We thought that Greg could re-enter with Sagan and Naesen. It was all up for grabs, Gilbert didn’t have it won. But the crash … Luckily, Greg could restart and make the podium in second place.”
BMC Racing’s cyclists arrived to the red and black team bus. Baldato congratulated them, but remained bitter.
“This race remains a nightmare for me,” he added. “I finished twice second as a rider, never a winner, and now twice second as a sports director.”