The BMC team struggled to make an impact in the E3 Harelbeke, with Greg Van Avermaet saving the day for the team with tenth place in the big group that sprinted for seventh. Former world champion Thor Hushovd, abandoned the race after 150km and the Hotondberg climb.
Van Avermaet claimed he was close to getting a much better result. But the result could have been much worse. He suffered a flat tyre 57km from the finish but managed to get back to the front and stayed there despite several crashes taking out riders around him.
“I wasn’t bad, always riding in the front and going with the moves. At the Oude Kwaremont I was in the group with the men who were riding away. More was possible but I’m satisfied. I was able to keep up easily on the Paterberg. On the Oude Kwaremont I was one of the best,” Van Avermaet said.
Van Avermaet admitted he was on his limit when Geraint Thomas and Nikki Terpstra rode away but he referred to eventual winner Peter Sagan who also got dropped at that point. From there Van Avermaet said he took some pulls in the chase group in order to get back to Thomas and Terpstra but was unable to go with Stijn Vandenbergh when he jumped away.
“It’s about positioning, so that shows that there’s not a lot of difference between me and those guys. That boosts my confidence,” he said.
Once in the chase group with Fabian Cancellara there was not much Van Avermaet could do. If he worked he sacrificed his chances of success and if he waited the gap wasn’t going to come down. Having a teammate in front would’ve helped his situation a lot, Van Avermaet suggested.
“[Stijn] Devolder (Trek Factory Racing) and [Dries] Devenyns for Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) were still working, trying to close the gap. I tried to get away on the new climb [the Karnemelkbeekstraat] but on those wide roads you lose ground. It felt like the Tour of Flanders from last year where you can’t go anywhere on the bigger roads. The guys brought me in a good position. Then again, it was a large group in the finale and it would’ve been ideal if one more of us would’ve got over that climb so that we could co-operate with the others to close the gap. Everybody tried their best and if you’re not good enough to be there then you can’t do it.”
Last year Van Avermaet finished in the top-10 at Gent-Wevelgem, the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Paris-Roubaix and the Brabantse Pijl.