Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) has confirmed that his future will be decided before the Tour de France. With BMC set to fold in the winter, the Belgian rider has been linked to a number of teams including Lotto Soudal and Bahrain-Merida, and while he was previously willing to give his current employers a chance to find a new sponsor, he has hinted that time is almost up.
“I don’t know my future yet. There are still a few options to play. I think that in the next three or four weeks it’s going to be clear where I’m going to go,” Van Avermaet told Cyclingnews at the Tour de Suisse. “I was waiting a long time on this team to stay but it seems like we don’t find anything special yet for the moment. For me, I can’t wait too long and want to see where my future is. In a few weeks I can say more. Before the Tour.
“Let’s hope [BMC Racing Team] still find something, even if I’m not there. Even if it’s in August or September. A lot of people in this company deserve to go through. We’ve had a lot of good results, and we’ve always been there. It would be really sad if the organization goes away. So, I’m hoping, if not for me but other riders and staff members, that they can carry on. Maybe we’ll see in a few weeks.”
Van Avermaet, now 33, probably has one final major contract in him before his value naturally starts to drop. A rider of his age would be forgiven for chasing one final major pay day, but as he is still competitive in the Classics, the 2017 Paris-Roubaix winner is only willing to sign for a team that provides him with the right environment.
At BMC, Van Avermaet has been positioned as the team’s sole Classics leader for a number of years, and has been given leeway in terms of race programme and objectives. Few teams could make an offer similar in the scale to BMC, but Van Amermaet was adamant that financial reward was only part of the ideal package for next year.
“There are a few options,” Van Avermaet said. “You have to see where you fit in the team, you have to see where is the budget for a Classics rider and then you can make the calculation as to which teams are available. There are a few and I’m happy to have that choice. I think that for my career I’m going to go to a team for sporting reasons, where I can do my thing and try to win Classics.
“It will be nice to know where I’m going before the Tour. If I chose just on pay packet, then I wouldn’t be riding for BMC anymore. Sporting ways have to be balanced, and financials are important. The balance has to be there, and the most important thing is that a team believes in me and that they really want me. That for me is something really important.”
The yellow jersey
Putting contracts to one side, Van Avermaet has the matter of the Tour de France on his immediate agenda. The Belgian wore the yellow jersey for two days and claimed a stage two years ago, and won in Rodez in 2015, when he was also part of BMC’s winning effort in the team time trial.
Although BMC’s main priority this time around is to support GC contender Richie Porte, there is a strong chance that the team could be vying for the leader’s jersey in the opening week with the several stages suited to Van Avermaet. The priority for Van Avermaet is to win a stage but with bonus seconds on offer, and BMC’s prowess against the clock, he also has a strong case for wearing yellow at some point in the first half of the race.
“I think that there are three or four stages for me, for sure. I think that Quimper [stage 5 – ed.] is maybe my best chance. Mur de Bretagne will be super hard but I’ll give it a try, there is the Roubaix stage, and then there are maybe a few other breakaway chances where I’ll have the chance to get out there as I’ll be behind in the GC. Then we have the team time trial, where we want to win with the team.” he said.
“I’m the sort of guy who can sit in and not lose time when it’s hard and then get some bonus seconds in the sprints. Then we have the team time trial, so the yellow jersey can come to you. I’ve had that experience once of wearing yellow and it was a really special feeling.”
Having Porte on the team is a benefit, according to Van Avermaet, who is able to pick and choose the stages he wishes to target, rather than being burdened with the responsibility of leading a team for three full weeks.
“I’m really happy that Richie is in the team. I can’t lead the team for a whole Tour de France. I’m not that good a of a sprinter who can compete every day. It’s good to back off and give some pressure to Ritchie, and then I can do the same for him. I think it’s good that on certain stages I can take the pressure off him. It would be good if I can open up with a nice win to take the pressure off the team.”