OUDENAARDE, Belgium (VN) — Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) failed to get that dream Tour of Flanders win that he has been racing for over the last 13 editions, but the Belgian left the race Sunday with no regrets.
Last year’s Paris-Roubaix victor and the 2016 Olympic road race champion placed 10th, to go along with a third and two second places in 2014 and 2017.
“What could I have done differently? Maybe I could’ve saved a bit more after the Muur having known how it ended up but in the end, I did a final how I wanted to do it,” Van Avermaet said.
Van Avermaet had just come out of the orange CCC team bus, showered and relaxed despite the 267-kilometer battle. It began early on the flat roads after the Kapelmuur. Danny van Poppel (Jumbo-Visma) attacked. It brought out Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), and also Van Avermaet.
With 100 kilometers to race, it seemed early. It was. The race regrouped and exploded again on the second time up the Oude Kwaremont.
“It broke up fast after the Muur, I thought that was a good thing for me because I was was in the first group, but then I spent some energy and it was for nothing because the group came back,” he added.
“And then it was on the Kwaremont the second time like always, but it was really hard to make a big gap on the others. A lot of riders are on the same level and it was hard to make a good race against the others.”
Hardly anyone considered Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First) as the eventual winner. The Italian slipped away, with 18km remaining, on the final ascent of the Oude Kwaremont after his teammate Sep Vanmarcke did the groundwork.
It left Van Avermaet in a group of 15, with star riders including former winners Sagan and Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates), as well as Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus).
They began to look at each other after the Oude Kwaremont and on the last climb, the Paterberg. Van Avermaet would not take the job of leading fast men like Kristoff to the Oudenaarde finish line.
“For me, it was the case, if I went full, I’d bring a lot of fast guys with me who were not pulling for the whole day,” continued Van Avermaet.
“So you are always making the tempo on the climbs for the guys following so it was not my job to take them to the line and let them win Flanders. That was not the answer.
“I tried to do my best and hoped to do a good race but then yeah, I tried to do a good result but not for first.”
Van Avermaet finished speaking with journalists near the bus, making note of his former teammate and the day’s unexpected winner, Alberto Bettiol.
“I think the performance of Bettiol was the biggest one [that stood out]; no one expected him for the win,” he said.
“He was my teammate last year. I saw he had some attention, but he never had a super level in BMC. No one was expecting this.”