World title would trump any Classics victory for Van Avermaet

'For a one-day racer like me, the World Championships is the ultimate goal'

Greg Van Avermaet has raced in more than 30 of the major Classics during his career but he has yet to reach that elusive victory. The Belgian one-day specialist told Cyclingnews that while winning several classics is a career goal, securing the rainbow jersey at the upcoming UCI Road World Championships would trump any other win.

In an interview with Cyclingnews ahead of the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec City on Friday, Van Avermaet said, "Winning a big Classic like San Remo, Roubaix, Liege or the World Championships has always been my main goal, and when a classics rider can reach one of these goals then his career has been really nice.

"But having a world title is even more special because there is a jersey involved and it can be worn the whole year. For a one-day racer like me, the World Championships is the ultimate goal."

Van Avermaet is knocking on victory's door when it comes the Classics. This year alone he was third at both Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, and last year he was second in the latter. All-in-all, he's had nine top-10 finishes in the major one-day events.

Outside of the classics this year, he placed second overall at the Eneco Tour in August and before that he won stage 9 (TTT) in Plumelec and stage 13 in Rodez at the Tour de France, along with four other top-10 stage finishes. He also won the overall title at the Baloise Belgium Tour in May, won a stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico and placed second at Strade Bianchi in March.

At the World Championships, the elite men's road race parcours is thought to favour the specialists like Van Avermaet, and also some of the sprinters. Riders face a total of 259.2km over 16 laps of a 10km urban circuit, and each lap of the race will include a cobbled climb up Libby Hill Park, a 19 per cent climb up 23rd Street and the final climb up Governor's Street, all in the last four kilometres.

Van Avermaet is one of three leaders, alongside Tom Boonen and Philippe Gilbert, who will represent Belgium in the elite men's road race on September 27. Of the three, Van Avermaet is the only one who has not won a world title yet. Boonen won in Madrid in 2005 and Gilbert won in Valkenburg in 2012.

Compatriots Iljo Keisse, Nikolas Maes, Stijn Vandenbergh, Sep Vanmarcke, Jens Keukeleire and Tiesj Benoot will support the three riders in the road race. Van Avermaet said that all three are prepared to have a successful Worlds but that they will most likely have to wait until they are in the thick of the race before deciding who will ultimately work for who in Belgium's bid for the world title.

"We will see how it goes because everyone is in pretty good shape," Van Avermaet said. "Last year we also had three leaders in Ponferrada and it worked out pretty well. We couldn't win but we were all up there.

"This year will be a little bit the same, we have so many good riders in Belgium and it's hard to choose just one leader. It almost always is an advantage and we have a few cards to play and that will be good for us."

It's generally difficult to predict how a road race like the World Championships will play out but Van Avermaet says he feels confident that he could thrive in either a late-race breakaway or a selective bunch kick.

"I will have to wait and see how things go during the race," Van Avermaet said. "I've been doing some good sprints this year, so I could wait for a sprint but I could also attack. It's something that I will have to wait to feel it out during the race. I can't make a decision before the race."

Van Avermaet put the finishing touches on his form at the pair of Canadian WorldTour races in Quebec City and Montreal this past weekend. Although he didn't get the victory that he was hoping for in either of the two circuit races, he said it ended up being great preparation for the World Championships.

"The Quebec races were nice events in themselves and I wanted to go for good results," said Van Avermaet, who featured in the final in Quebec City and finished 10th.

"They were held in the same time zone as Richmond and it was good preparation to spend time in Quebec to prepare for Worlds. My main goal was to do well in the two races and gain good motivation for Worlds." 

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