The BMC Racing Team celebrated Greg Van Avermaet's victory at Paris-Roubaix at their hotel on Sunday evening, savouring how the team performed throughout the 257km race, and how Van Avermaet joined the move that decided the race and then put his rivals to the sword with a perfectly executed sprint finish on the Roubaix velodrome.
Team manager Jim Ochowicz has been in professional cycling for over thirty years but this is the first time one of his riders has won the Hell of the North, and it was Van Avermaet's and BMC team's first ever victory in a Monument.
Video footage showed how Van Avermaet celebrated in the velodrome and with teammate Daniel Oss, who rode so generously to help him in the finale of the race. The importance of victory was also clear to see in the BMC team car, with footage capturing directeur sportif Valerio Piva and Fabio Baldato celebrating with sheer joy.
"It's as if I won myself," Oss said after hugging Van Avermaet and then watching him raise the winner's cobblestone in celebration.
"When I was away off the front, I dreamt that it was perhaps my day but when and the others came up to me, I gave everything I had so that the chasers wouldn't close the gap. I've realised that I can perhaps ride Paris-Roubaix with the aim of winning it. One day I want to come back and give it a try."
Ochowicz celebrates BMC quality and hard work
The BMC team, like all their rivals, lost some riders due to crashes and mechanical problems but other riders stepped up. Stefan Küng crashed and hurt his left wrist, while Manuel Quinziato was also slowed early on in what he later revealed was his last ever Paris-Roubaix as he considers plans to end his career this season.
When Van Avermaet crashed early, three teammates waited for him and Jeremy Drucker played a huge role in helping him get back to the peloton before other serious attacks were made. Australian national champion Miles Scotson later played a key role and managed to finish his first Paris-Roubaix.
"It's a dream come true to win Paris-Roubaix but dreams don't happen for nothing, they happen for a reason," Ochowicz told Cyclingnews as he celebrated with technical manager Allan Peiper.
"They happen to good people and they happen to good organisations. And we've got a great organisation and a lot of great people and a lot of great riders."
"It's nice to have this one. Greg and the team have had it as a goal for a long time. I've been coming here for 31 years now and I finally got one. It takes a while but it was worth the wait."
No regrets about Gilbert
Ochowicz has long preferred Van Avermaet as BMC team leader for the cobbled Classics. He let Philippe Gilbert move to Quick-Step Floors for the 2017 season and then saw him win the Tour of Flanders, with Van Avermaet taking second. However, he has no regrets about the decision, especially after Van Avermaet's super spring results. Few riders have been so consistently successful across so many Classics – modern and historic – between late February and April.
"This is at the top of the list of races we've always wanted to win and we put a lot of passion and energy and work into getting to the start of races like Paris-Roubaix at our very best," he said.
"We parted on good terms with Philippe and were still on good terms. I'm happy for him winning the Tour of Flanders and I'm sure he's happy for us winning Paris-Roubaix."
"We were pretty clear about our strategy: Greg was the leader. It has paid off. He's just leapt ahead in the WorldTour ranking and that's a goal of ours, as is the team WorldTour ranking. But we go weekend to weekend and we've got another big race next weekend with the Amstel Gold Race and then others after that."
Ochowicz was not afraid to claim at least some of the glory for Van Avermaet's transformation from a nice guy, but eternal second to one of the best Classics riders of his generation, who rarely makes a mistake in the biggest, most challenging races.
"I think we've helped him a lot, I really do," the American team manager said.
"We've had a lot of close calls and lots of discussions. But I think this season, more than ever, he's got a good feeling for the bike race, he knows what to do and does it so well. He's got the power to finish the job even against the best of the best.
"I think it's his mentality. He's more mature now in lots of ways. His training has gotten him farther ahead and I think the team is stronger around him. There's also all the science we do, the bikes and equipment we use and then the staff and directeur sportif and the tactics we use.
"You need the combination of a lot of things to win such a big race like Paris-Roubaix. In the end, we need the bike rider to put it all together and get to the finish line first. Greg now knows how to do that."
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