Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) was the biggest name at the start of Dwars door Vlaanderen in Roeselare, Belgium on a chilly Wednesday morning. The current number two ranked rider of the UCI WorldTour ranking and leader of the new rolling UCI World Ranking was shocked by the terrorist attacks that happened in Brussels on Tuesday. Van Avermaet said it was weird to be lining up to race one day after the dramatic events.
“It’s a strange feeling. Everybody is touched. It’s a special atmosphere. We’re with our thoughts with the people who are affected. There’s two things you can do. You can sit down or pick up your life. I would have trained [if there would be no race]. It’s not that you’re not there with your thoughts because you’re here. It’s a good way to digest the events," Van Avermaet said.
“I doubted whether there would be a race. There was a very small time frame. I thought they would cancel the race. Once they decided to go on, I decided for myself to race, too. It’s a decision that has to be made in the higher echelons. It’s up to the politicians to decide on these matters.”
When asked whether the riders would be safe today, Van Avermaet referred to the vulnerability of cyclists just before, during and shortly after a race. “It’ll be safe today but we will never be safe for actions like these. It’s a very public sport. People can touch us almost all the time. We’re very vulnerable. Nobody’s safe in this. We’re in Zaventem [airport] nearly every week. We knew something like this could happen. If something like this happens near your home it has a bigger impact on you. I think everybody is very much affected.”
Due to the dramatic events in Brussels on Tuesday the 30-year-old Belgian rider wasn’t well prepared for Dwars door Vlaanderen. “I haven’t checked the course. I haven’t raced here the last couple of years so I don’t know the course very well.
"Yesterday I’ve tried to follow the news and haven’t thought about cycling.
"Once the race gets underway we’ll have to turn the switch but it’ll be hard. We’ll try to make a good race out of it. For me, it’s not the most important race but I’ll try.”
Van Avermaet, who is in top form, was playing down his expectations in Dwars door Vlaanderen, pointing out that the most important races were yet to come in the next few weeks.
The last time Van Avermaet rode Dwars door Vlaanderen was in 2011 during his first season at the BMC Racing Team. This season he added the race to his calendar again and he expressed the hope that it was a good call.
“I’m enjoying great form after a great Tirreno. Adding this race to my schedule wasn’t obvious. E3 and Gent-Wevelgem are more important. I’ve got a big heart for the Flemish Classics and I’ll race these three races. Hopefully I made the right choice.”