Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) finished a surprising second behind Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) in the sprint that decided stage 4 of the Tour of Qatar. Edvald Boasson Hagen’s double puncture took him out of contention for overall victory, bumping Van Avermaet up to second place just two seconds behind leader Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data).
With his BMC teammate Manuel Quinziato third overall at six seconds and Kristoff fourth at nine seconds, anything could happen on the final stage, where time bonuses are up for grabs in two late intermediate sprints and at the finish. Cavendish and Kristoff are arguably the favourites but Van Avermaet has shown some excellent early-season form in what is notoriously an unpredictable race. He has so far finished seventh, fourth, fourth and second on stages, despite not being a fast finishers.
“You have to take Qatar by day. It wasn't so good for Boasson Hagen but unfortunately that's racing with crashes and flat tires,” Van Avermaet said. “We will see what happens tomorrow (Friday). I was pretty happy with the race and how the team rode in the front. We were always there, and we're still up there in GC so it was a good day."
Van Avermaet and his teammates have put down a marker for the spring in Qatar and shown the whole team is on form as Omloop Het Nieuwsblad approaches. He is arguably in the prime of his career.
"We have a strong team with the Classics guys here. It's always important to build the team around me and I'm really happy with the work they did. I think everybody is in good shape,” Van Avermaet said.
“Everybody knows what work he has to do, even the first guy who was pulling from the first meters until the last lap, so I think we have great condition."
BMC directeur sportif Fabio Baldato confirmed the team will do everything possible to at least remain on the podium after tomorrow's stage, both with Van Avermaet and in the team classification.
"The course definitely plays in favour of the sprinters, but we will give it everything we have tomorrow. It's looking good for the team classification, which is a great reflection on how the riders have worked throughout the race."
BMC leads the team classification, 57 seconds ahead of Katusha, with Bora-Argon 18 third at 2:03.