Greg Van Avermaet has arguably been the standout rider of the spring classics, and he's not ready to quit just yet. The Paris-Roubaix champion will take on his final race of the early season in Liège-Bastogne-Liège for the first time since 2013.
“I want to line up at Liège-Bastogne-Liège because it has been a long time since I last started there. I’ve had a really good spring so far so I have nothing to lose by racing. I want to try and see how far I can go because it has been four years since I raced the last time, so I want to see if I am able to get a good result.”
Even Van Avermaet's glittering results sheet cannot cover up the shortcomings he sees in his team and, after those were exposed at Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race, the BMC management has vowed to strengthen the classics core in the transfer window later this year.
Van Avermaet has hardly put a foot wrong all spring, winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, E3-Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem, and Paris-Roubaix, and finishing runner-up at the Tour of Flanders. At Amstel, however, he and his teammates missed the decisive split on the Kruisberg, and he was unable to match Michal Kwiatkowski’s acceleration on the Keutenberg to bridge to the head of the race.
It left the 31-year-old in a weak position, forced to shoulder the bulk of the responsibility in a chase group that lacked the cohesion and firepower of the Gilbert/Kwiatkowski group up the road, and it was all the more disappointing - and a little embarrassing - given the way BMC had grabbed the race by the scruff of the neck in the preceding 30 kilometres, forcing a fierce pace to soften up the bunch ahead of the crucial phase of the race.
“On the Kruisberg the team let me down a little,” Van Avermaet said after the race. “One of us had to be in there to take the pressure off."
Speaking to Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, BMC directeur sportif Valerio Piva admitted his riders were “too enthusiastic” ahead of the Kruisberg, saying: “We sacrificed our men without really hurting the other teams.”
It is understood that Van Avermaet wants more support deep into the Classics races, with teammates up there to cover and infiltrate moves, taking some of the pressure off his shoulders and adding another dimension tactically.
"We have no one on the level of Greg," acknowledged Piva, with sporting manager Allan Peiper adding: "Only in Paris-Roubaix, Daniel Oss was able to put put him in a strong position. The tens of kilometres in which Greg could follow the wheels gave him the key to winning the race."
Peiper pointed to the promise of some members of the team who still need time to develop, but insisted that management will listen to its star rider and will look to bolster its line-up when the transfer window opens later this summer.
"We have high expectations for [Stefan] Kung and [Silvan] Dillier. They’re still growing – also in terms of race intelligence," he said. "Dylan [Teuns] was very strong in Dwars door Vlaanderen – that gave our team management food for thought.
"We will strengthen the traditional core around Greg," Peiper added. "At least two classics riders are coming in. The profile? Guys who can assist Greg in the final and who are able eventually to take over the torch from him."