Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) has proven remarkably consistent in garnering top results this spring with today's sixth place at Brabantse Pijl the latest in a string of top-seven finishes stretching back to the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in late February. Van Avermaet and teammate Philippe Gilbert provided BMC with a powerful one-two punch in the Brabantse Pijl's endgame, with only a spectacularly on-form Peter Sagan (Cannondale) to spoil their endeavours. Sagan neutralised Van Avermaet's attack on the final climb and accompanied by Gilbert, the Slovak champion came around the world champion metres from the finish to claim victory.
Despite showing top form today, the Amstel Gold Race this coming Sunday will be the conclusion of Van Avermaet's spring campaign - there's no Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège on his schedule. Van Avermaet spoke to Cyclingnews after Brabantse Pijl and reflected on his results garnered thus far this season, including 5th at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, 6th at Strade Bianche, 3rd at Gent-Wevelgem, 7th at Tour of Flanders and 4th at Paris-Roubaix.
"I was always there in every race. I don't think I can blame myself for anything. I always ran into riders who're superior. Today, during the final 500m, I thought I was going to win but sadly enough they still came over me. Once they overtook me my motivation was gone. So be it.
"I really suffered today, although in the finale I managed to improve a bit. I hope the form is still there. There's three days to recover and then I think I can show something in the Amstel Gold Race. I think I can ride for my own account at the Amstel, probably a bit like today. If I would do Liège as well that would be over the top."
Once again Van Avermaet and Gilbert will face Sagan at Amstel Gold, and Van Avermaet believes they'll again have to try to put the Slovak under pressure in order to win. Van Avermaet likes Gilbert's chances.
"To me he [Gilbert] was top today. He'll be satisfied with his second place. It's a confirmation that he's doing well and it'll boost his confidence ahead of the Ardennes. We'll have to do it like today in the Gold Race. If he stays on Sagan's wheel, then it'll be hard. By attacking like today we have a chance."
That strategy was demonstrated in their perfectly-timed attack at 17km from the finish. Van Avermaet punched away with Gilbert, although an attentive Sagan immediately joined the BMC duo. Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) and Simon Geschke (Argos-Shimano) later bridged up and in no time the five men joined the six remaining leaders. Nobody else was able to get back to the front and the 11-man group would battle it out for the win.
"I told Gilbert to get on my wheel, that I would try to attack. Danilo Wyss perfectly delivered us in front of the group. I went flat out until the top and then I saw we had a nice group. That was ideal to ride the finale," Van Avermaet said.
In the finale he might have lacked the energy to finish the job, having dug deep for a fourth place finish at Paris-Roubaix last Sunday. "I rode a good result in Roubaix and I'm pleased that I rode it. It's a race that suits me. Even if I skipped it these guys [today] would've been hard to beat."
Surprisingly, Van Avermaet was by far the team's best man at the Hell of the North while the team's dedicated leaders didn't feature in the finale. "We knew it before the race. If you're not super in the Tour of Flanders then you can't expect to be flying in Paris-Roubaix. I felt like I was the strongest man of our team and that's what showed in Roubaix."