Frustrated Van Avermaet hoping for Roubaix repeat to save classics campaign

The Belgian won nearly every major cobbled race last spring, but he's come up short this year each time.

GHENT, Belgium (VN) — BMC Racing’s Greg Van Avermaet is hoping to salvage a frustrating classics campaign Sunday as he lines up as defending champion at Paris-Roubaix.

He won Roubaix last year despite having troubles throughout the race to cap his near-perfect run across the 2017 cobbles, winning three of the four major races. This year, despite feeling strong, he has little to show for it.

“We will give it everything we have on Sunday to defend my title,” Van Avermaet said. “It was amazing last year because I wasn’t expecting to win it, but I did. I’m capable of winning again, so we will see how far I go.” [related title=”More on Paris-Roubaix” align=”left” tag=”Paris-Roubaix”]

The BMC captain said he’s been strong this spring, but save for a third-place podium at E3-Harelbeke, Van Avermaet is not having the cards fall in his favor.

“I’ve felt good and confident in my shape the whole classics season, but things haven’t fallen into place yet,” Van Avermaet said. “Paris-Roubaix is completely different to the Belgian classics. As much as you need the legs, you need some luck to stay safe and avoid punctures.”

Much like the other top classics teams, BMC has been out-maneuvered so far by Quick-Step Floors. The Belgian juggernaut has marched across Flanders, only ceding Ghent-Wevelgem with a second place.

Van Avermaet is encouraged after seeing solid support at Flanders, and the team brings the same block for Roubaix save for one change: Nathan Van Hooydonck is back from illness and replaces Alberto Bettiol. BMC raced solid last Sunday, with riders like Stefan Küng and Fran Ventoso stepping up.

“We saw the best performance from a team perspective [at Flanders], and all of our riders are motivated to help Greg as much as possible,” BMC sport director Fabio Baldato said. “We need to be attentive and intelligent in the way we race. I am confident we can produce a good result with Greg as our leader.”

BMC Racing for Paris-Roubaix
Greg Van Avermaet
Jempy Drucker
Stefan Küng
Jürgen Roelandts
Michael Schär
Nathan Van Hooydonck
Francisco Ventoso