Belgian beaten to the line for third place
The often forgotten but ever-consistent Greg Van Avermaet came oh-so-close to standing atop the podium on a clear and chilly afternoon at the conclusion of the 'Hell of the North' but he ultimately fell short, finishing in fourth-place after being overtaken in the dying meters by Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step).
BMC Racing entered the 254.5km Monument as one of the team’s three leaders and while his two teammates Thor Hushovd and the aspiring Paris-Roubaix winner Taylor Phinney failed to feature at the finish, Van Avermaet’s result capped-off what has been another consistent start to the year for the 27-year-old.
His four-place put a end to the cobbled classics season ahead of what could well be an improved assault on the Ardennes. The 2011 Paris-Tours winner has demonstrated his versatility in both the cobbled and hillier one-day races for the past few seasons and appears poised to step up once again. But before any of that can happen, there's the disappointment of being unable to really celebrate his campaign with a final top result.
Van Avermaet entered the velodrome in Roubaix with Terpstra and Damien Gaudin (Europcar) - who won the prologue at Paris-Nice before crashing out spectacularly whilst wearing the race leader's jersey - and looked near certain to secure third-place but his line choice exiting the final bend left the door open and was arguably the wrong one to take as Terpstra took the shorter, lower approach to the finish.
"In the final sprint whoever is the strongest wins and so Terpstra took third," Van Avermaet told Het Laaste Nieuws. "But I'm more disappointment with the way Fabian Cancellara rode away with [Zdenek Stybar]. I was sitting on the wheel of Damien Gaudin and when Fabian accelerated and the Frenchman left a gap.
Van Avermaet was the only rider from the second group containing Juan Antonio Flecha (Vancansoleil-DCM), Sebastian Langeveld (Orica GreenEdge), Gaudin and Terpstra that attempted to go with the disappearing figures of Cancellara and Stybar (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) on the Bourghelles à Wannehain but it soon became clear the Belgian lacked the energy to continue with his chase. He was shortly caught by his breakaway companions while Cancellara and Stybar made their way up to the leading duo of Sep Vanmarcke (Blanco) and Stijn Vandenbergh (OPQS).
"I still tried to close the gap but it was impossible," he added. "But I have to add that during the race Cancellara was not as superior as a week ago at de Ronde. However, if I had been able to follow him I still don't think I would have been able to beat him. That would have been too difficult."
- Ronde van Vlaanderen