By Shane Stokes in Doha, Qatar
Greg van Avermaet (Silence-Lotto) won a stage in last year's Tour of Qatar and is both third overall and best young rider heading into the final stage of the 2008 edition. The Belgian is 30" behind race leader Tom Boonen (Quick Step).
With placings of second, fourth and eighth on stages, Van Avermaet was aiming for a high result on stage five in this year's Tour of Qatar. However, a crash in the final 500 metres involving Magnus Backstedt (Slipstream Chipotle-H3O) and several others affected his run-in to the line, and he finished back in 11th position.
"I had to brake just after the crash and the sprint was over then," the 22 year-old told Cyclingnews. "But I am happy that I didn't fall and my condition is good. I don't think I would have won without the crash, winning is too much for me as to beat guys like Boonen and Napolitano would be very difficult, but maybe when I am a little bit older.
"Anyway, I am happy with my progress so far. Last year, I was sometimes 40 minutes down in the last group but now I am doing all the stages in the first group. That is very important for me - I am having no weak moments and I am always very good. I am very happy."
Van Avermaet said that this year will be about learning and also helping team leaders. "I am looking forward to the Belgian Classics. I will do Milano-Sanremo and all the Belgian races. They are my favourite races.
"I will be working for Leif Hoste in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, but maybe in the smaller races I will have a chance to go for it myself. Perhaps in the semi-Classics, 1.1 races like the Dwars door Vlaanderen or races like that. We will see."
What about Grand Tours? "I think it is too early for me to do the Tour de France," he replied. "We have Cadel and McEwen for it. Maybe after a year or something it will be for me. I might do the Vuelta."