By Bjorn Haake
Greg Van Avermaet is still very young, but has had some good successes already, thanks to his speed in the final metres. The Silence-Lotto rider took a few lessons from the team's designated sprinter, Robbie McEwen. With McEwen's departure, Silence Lotto will be happy to have a good replacement.
Van Avermaet is only 23 years of age, but has now already scored a stage win in a Grand Tour. "To win a stage in the Vuelta is something really great for a young rider like me. I am very happy I could make it."
Van Avermaet acknowledged that the win didn't come easily. "The stage started out very hard. I was trying to always be in the front of the group."
Stage nine started from Vielha, a picturesque town surrounded by the Pyrenean mountains. But the scenic part soon gave way to the banner of the sharp start, which was already located on the climb. Some riders immediately had tunnel vision from the efforts, but after only seven kilometres everybody had a tunnel vision. The 5.4-kilometre Tunel de Vielha awaited the riders.
Van Avermaet found the air wasn't too stale, either. "But I did have to take off my sun glasses," he smiled. The tunnel may have been lit, but not quite enough. Van Avermaet wasn't sure initially if the break would face its usual fate. "At first I didn't think we would be able to stay away. But after the big category one climb I was a bit sure, as we had six minutes."
As a sprinter to stay with the lead group is not the usual way to prepare for a sprint, though. Van Avermaet had a few riders to be afraid of. "I was not sure if I was the strongest and fastest in the end, as there were good riders, like Nocentini, Rebellin or Cunego."
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