The Belgian endured an uneasy coexistence with his fellow countryman Gilbert during his time at Omega Pharma-Lotto, and he left the team at the end of 2010. After a successful debut campaign at BMC, Van Avermaet acknowledged that his role will be slightly different next season.
“His arrival changes things for me, that’s for sure,” Van Avermaet told dhnet.be. “Philippe is the best rider in the world at the moment and there’s also Hushovd. That’s going to change things, we’ll have a lot of pressure, we’re going to have to work and take the race in hand. Naturally, I’ll ride for them, but I hope that in certain races I will still have my chances.”
Speaking at the Vélo de Cristal awards ceremony recently, however, Gilbert was adamant that Van Avermaet would not be a leader at the spring classics, and cited the 2011 edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where Van Avermaet was dropped from the winning move on the Côte de Saint-Nicholas with 5km to go
“Greg has potential but he has to be realistic,” said Gilbert. “In the finale of Liège, he only took one turn at the front and then he was dropped and lost a minute. If he was really strong, he would have gone all the way to the finish. He showed his limits, and he who shows his limits can’t lay claim to being a leader at BMC.”
Van Avermaet admitted that he was disappointed by Gilbert’s comments, but was determined that he they could work well together. “I wasn’t happy with it, but I don’t want to create a polemic, I’m thinking about my own career,” he said. “But it’s never pleasant and I also think it’s not true.”
Van Avermaet will ride many of the same races as Gilbert in 2011, and after winning Paris-Tours in October, he is determined to continue his progress regardless of the arrival of more illustrious teammates.
“Philippe and I have the same programme because we’re the same kind of rider,” he said. “I’m three years younger and just like he did three years ago, I won Paris-Tours this year. I’d love to be on the same schedule as him. We’ve got the same character. I want to be the best too and win as many races as possible because I’m ambitious.
“That win in Tours did me enormous good. It was an important moment in my career, I’m sure. I was already very happy with my season, but that win has really freed me. It’s given me confidence, but it’s also given me another dimension within my team. I’m going to have more freedom, it’s a step forward for the future.”