OUDENAARDE, Belgium (VN) — BMC Racing’s Greg Van Avermaet went into the Tour of Flanders as one of the top favorites, but he’ll have to wait at least one more year to achieve his biggest goal. Niki Terpstra powered to victory at De Ronde this Sunday, giving Quick-Step Floors a second consecutive Flanders win. Van Avermaet finished fifth.
He could only tip his cap to the winner at the finish.
“Hats off to Terpstra,” Van Avermaet said. “I think I was one of the strongest guys in the race, but I think Terpstra was just a little bit better than every one of us and made the right move. It was pretty impressive to keep that effort to the line because we didn’t wait too long to react.”
Terpstra initially followed an attack by Bahrain-Merida’s Vincenzo Nibali before leaving the grand tour champion behind and setting off in pursuit of a breakaway group up the road. He eventually caught and passed them, pressing on solo.
Even with a who’s who of heavy hitters in the group, the chasers could not bring Terpstra to heel. In fact, even Trek-Segafredo’s Mads Pedersen, the lone survivor of the aforementioned break, stayed clear to take second.
After initially reacting to Terpstra’s move, the chase group did allow the pace to slacken at a few points in the final 20 kilometers. Sports director Fabio Baldato did not have any complaints, giving Quick-Step its due for the victory. He felt that BMC Racing’s classics ace and support riders alike all did their jobs, but that there was nothing the team could do against Terpstra and Quick-Step — at least, not with only one Olympic champion on staff.
“You need to have three Gregs, like Quick-Step have,” Baldato told VeloNews. “Then maybe you can change things. I’m happy with what the guys did, looking at all the race. They were always with Greg, next to him. No regrets. Chapeau to Terpstra and Quick-Step.”
Van Avermaet was unsurprisingly disappointed with fifth place, considering how much effort he’s put in over the years to win the race. Unlike Peter Sagan, however, he did not bemoan the lackluster chase effort. With Gilbert and Zdenek Stybar staying glued to the wheels of anyone who tried to bring Terpstra back, the chasers were stuck between a rock and a hard place.
“You look at each other, but yeah, nobody was really strong enough to get away and make a gap,” he said. And if you don’t make a gap, it’s normal, you kind of close into each other and you get a bit stuck. That’s the feeling I had already the years before.”
Although he’s missed the mark yet again in his quest to claim his biggest target, Van Avermaet will have a chance at another monumental win next weekend. He’s the defending champion at Paris-Roubaix, and he said he would be able to move on quickly from the disappointment of Flanders to refocus on the French classic.
Of course, Quick-Step will be a huge obstacle standing between BMC and victory again next Sunday. Baldato said BMC will try to come up with a plan during the week, and that the most important thing was to be resilient.
“Anything can happen [in Roubaix]. You saw the crash today, with the rain and the cobbles. We need to believe and not give up,” he said. “That is cycling. Every race, everything can change.”