In a post-race press conference, the Olympic road race champion said that the course suits his characteristics as a rider but that there always seems to be someone faster than him at the finish line – and this time it was Michael Matthews (Sunweb).
"It's frustrating," Van Avermaet said. "Especially because I was beaten twice by Peter Sagan, and last year I beat Matthews, so I was hoping to win this one."
Van Avermaet came into the one-day WorldTour race as an overwhelming favourite, in part because he's been runner-up so many times: in 2012 behind Simon Gerrans, and in the 2016 and 2017 editions, losing both times to Sagan. Last year, the race finished in a group sprint where Sagan took the victory ahead of Van Avermaet, while Matthews was third.
Sagan decided to skip the Canadian WorldTour races in Quebec and Montreal this year, opting to instead compete at the Vuelta a España as he prepares for his defence of the World Championships title in Austria later this month.
In Sagan's absence, however, it was Matthews who had the upper hand in the final sprint after Van Avermaet rolled the dice and launched himself from what was left of the main field too early, fading in the closing metres.
"It was a long sprint but it is more about the legs than the timing," Van Avermaet said. "There was a headwind, but if you're waiting for the sprint you can get boxed in, so you give it a go, and most of the time this finish doesn't lie. Here it is always super-hard. Michael came pretty fast over me and kept it to the end, so he deserves the win."
Van Avermaet also looked at the positive aspects of his race, noting that he felt good for much of the 200 kilometres along the circuits through the punchy climbs of old Quebec City, including on the final laps.
"I was pretty happy with how I was feeling the whole day and felt pretty fresh in the last laps," he said. "The race has gone a little bit differently in the last three or four years. More riders are focused on the sprint, and so there's less attacking, and it suited me really well. I'm really happy about it."
Van Avermaet will, however, have to allow time to settle the frustration of finishing second place for a fourth time, and for the third time in a row. He will now have a full year to crack the code of winning the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec, should he return to the event next year.
"It's always a bit frustrating because you're going for the win, and if you get second three times in a row, it's never good," he said.
"I have to look at it in a positive way, and just being there is also something. It's a parcours that suits me, but there is always someone who seems to be a little bit faster than me."
Van Avermaet can now turn his attention to the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal on Sunday, where the pressure to win is lessened if only by the fact that he won the race in 2016.
"I'm looking forward to the race in Montreal on Sunday, which is a little bit harder but also a parcours that is closer to what I'm good at," Van Avermaet said.