Greg Van Avermaet's hopes of finishing his spring Classics campaign on a high came crashing down when the CCC Team leader fell on the final descent of Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday, less than 15 kilometres from the finish.
The Belgian had only decided to add the race to his programme after last weekend's Amstel Gold, where he said he had felt good after finishing in 14th place. The decision came after what has been a relatively disappointing 2019 Classics campaign for the 33-year-old, and deciding to prolong his spring racing programme gave him an additional opportunity to score a top result.
"Of course, it's a disappointing end to my Classics season," Van Avermaet said on his team's website after the crash. "I was expecting more from this race, and I was happy with how I was feeling, but in the end we didn't get the result I think the team deserved."
Van Avermaet had been in the thick of the action in the closing stages of what was a wet and cold Liège, and found himself in the chasing group close behind the lead group, from which eventual winner Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) made his winning move going over the final climb of the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons.
"We did a good job together," Van Avermaet said of CCC's teamwork. "The guys were great at bringing Alessandro De Marchi and me into position for every climb, and we were able to cover almost ever move, so I think we can take some positives away from that. It is just a pity about the crash."
The crash happened on the descent of the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, and, although Van Avermaet was able to remount and still finish the race – coming home in 52nd place, having only sustained cuts and bruises – he was left disappointed with how his day had ended.
"We were working hard to come back to the leading group in front of us, and we were all working well together, but unfortunately on the last corner Michael Matthews [Team Sunweb] crashed in front of me and I couldn't avoid it," Van Avermaet explained.
"There was nothing I could do, and from that point on my race was done. At first, I thought it was a bigger crash, but after a couple of minutes I got back on my bike to try to see how I felt, and some of the initial stiffness went away, which was good," he said.
Team doctor Michel Cerfontaine confirmed that Van Avermaet has appeared not to have done any lasting damage.
"Fortunately, after an initial examination, it looks like all of Greg's injuries are superficial," Dr Cerfontaine said. "He came down heavily on his right side and has some bruising. He also suffered abrasions on his right hip and knee, as well as a cut on the right elbow. We don't expect him to have to make any changes to his race programme at this time, and after a few days everything should be fully healed."
Van Avermaet's provisionally unchanged race programme means that he is next set to be seen later this week, attempting to defend his Tour de Yorkshire title in the UK, starting on Thursday, May 2.