Van Avermaet shows confidence ahead of Paris-Roubaix

BMC rider tips Stybar as the man to beat

After a third place in the Tour of Flanders, the BMC team is confident that Greg Van Avermaet can lead them to a great result in Paris-Roubaix on Sunday. The 29-year-old Belgian rider echoed the same confidence when he showed up at the team presentation in Compiègne on a grey Saturday afternoon.

"Flanders was a big goal and Roubaix is just the week after that. I still have the shape. Roubaix never fitted me super well and I also skipped it a few times," Van Avermaet said. His best result was in 2013 when he finished fourth. In 2011 and 2012 he skipped the queen of the Spring Classics.

"It's a tough race for me. I prefer Flanders, which suits my explosive style better. In Roubaix, it's about strength and endurance. I think the years have made me stronger and that should bring me closer to the victory. Hopefully I can ride a good sprint too. It's not that simple. I had a good training on Wednesday and I was feeling really good. I'm confident that I can do a good race on Sunday," Van Avermaet said.

Riding a good sprint might become very important if in-form Alexander Kristoff is still around on the famous vélodrome of Roubaix. The strong Norwegian has taken over the torch from his retired compatriot Thor Hushovd, starring at the Spring Classics by winning streak at the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, the Ronde and the Scheldeprijs.

"There's only one tactic to beat Kristoff: get rid of him and don't go with him to the sprint. I was already surprised that he was so good in Flanders because he did a lot of races. He also won on Wednesday in the Scheldeprijs. I hope he is tired. I hope he's tired and not as good anymore as last Sunday. That's the only point to get rid of him."

When asked whether the race was more wide open due to the absence of the injured Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen, the Belgian rider didn't completely agree.

"There's more favourites than before but we don't have to overvalue Fabian and Tom. They weren't at their best ahead of their crashes. Also with Fabian and Tom it would be a more open race. There's more riders riding at the same level. Personally I' putting Zdenek Stybar down as my top favourite."

Featuring in the front at the big races is never a problem for Van Avermaet but actually winning them has turned out to be a more difficult challenge. For Sunday's race through the hell of the north, Van Avermaet knows what to do to win in the vélodrome of Roubaix.

"I need to get there with a small group with the fastest guys not being there anymore. We will see how it goes. It's always a hard race for me and in the end I'm always dead. I hope to be as fresh as possible at the last cobblestone section and the finish, then it will be ok. I will try again to open up the race. I will try to do an attack if it's possible. It's hard to say now where it's going to be. I'm an attractive rider and I will stay like this. I will not stay in the group."

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