Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing) was disappointed to finish second at Strade Bianche and regretted letting Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) go clear alone with 15km to race, yet he managed to raise a smile after the finish in Siena’s Piazza del Campo, knowing he had been in a great race.
"It was really old school today. From the fifth or sixth section of dirt roads [with close to 100km left to race], it was full gas to the finish. There was never a moment when you cold recover a little bit," he said.
"This was the hardest edition of the race I’ve done. It opened up so early and that’s why every guy was one against one. That’s what made it so hard. Everybody had to ride on their own. I’ve never gone that slow on the climbs...
"I think this is a real Classic. It’s a fight to the strade, then when you are on the strade it’s risky and technical. Then with the wind and the rain, you can make the race hard wherever you want. It’s such a nice race because all that makes it hard and special. In every sector you have to be there. I love it."
Van Avermaet was gracious in defeat but suggested Kwiatkowski was lucky to get away when he did.
"I ride to win, but before we got together [in the finale], there was lots of jumping and stopping, jumping and stopping; that kills you even more. He went full gas and went really strong, otherwise he wouldn’t have kept the gap.
"It’s too bad it’s second, but I think you had to be a little bit lucky. Kwiatkowski was strong, but me, Styby and Wellens were strong too. But you have to have a little bit of luck on who can go and who you make [close] the gap. We were just jumping around like idiots, but that’s racing too.”
More to come in April
Van Avermaet is in impressive form for early March. He beat Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) to win Omloop Het Nieuwsblad for a second consecutive time last weekend and showed his form with a series of powerful and aggressive attacks during Strade Bianche.
His winter training was delayed after suffering a non-displaced fibula fracture during a mountain bike ride in November. He underwent surgery but seems to have quickly found his form.
He believes there is more to come before he returns to Belgium for the cobbled classics.
"I think so…," he said optimistically.
"I feel good and in shape. I felt fresh today. I took a week of recovery last week because I want a good build-up to the Classics. This was a first goal, and you can see I’m up there. I think Tirreno can make me a little bit stronger like always, then it happens: We have three or four chances [in the Classics]. I hope I can catch one."