Omega Pharma Lotto rider Greg Van Avermaet took his highest placing of the 2010 season today, finishing third in stage seven of the Tour de Suisse into Wetzikon. However rather than taking satisfaction from it, he was left thinking about what could have been had things played out a little differently.
The Belgian was caught out when Marcus Burghardt (BMC Racing) attacked a full 55 kilometres from the end. Like many of the other riders in the break, he thought it was far too soon for a successful move to go clear, but Burghardt ended up being far too strong anyway.
He hit the line one minute and one second ahead of Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Van Avermaet and Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas), netting his second stage win in three days.
Van Avermaet had set out with the intention of trying something on the stage, telling Cyclingnews shortly before the start that he would have a go. "I think these next two days are really good for me. I will try an attack," he vowed. "I lost a lot of time yesterday. I think it is better now to go in a break and hopefully they will not be chasing after me. Then I can ride for the victory."
Part of that plan worked out just fine, but the only snag was the second part of that goal wasn't fulfilled. The problem was Burghardt, who was flying.
"When he went, I thought it was a bit too early," he told Cyclingnews. "I waited a bit because I was alone and it was 50 kilometres to go. I think it was a bit too early for me. But he was very strong, he got a minute very quickly. After that, we tried to close the gap but it was not easy - he stayed always out front, and I think he was really strong."
One consolation for Van Avermaet is that his form is clearly on the up. Prior to the Tour de Suisse, his best results were eighth in Brabantse Pijl and seventh on a stage of the Quatre Jours de Dunkerque. He's been feeling good in Switzerland, though.
"I was a bit closed in on the first stage, but I felt good. I was always with the first guys on the climb. It is just the case that yesterday [stage six to La Punt] was a bit too heavy for me."
The 25-year-old said that he is likely to take it easier on Saturday's penultimate stage, staying in the bunch rather than attacking again. This is partly due to the fatigue that he is certain to feel after being clear for most of today's leg, and also because the parcours is a bit tougher. However his solid form is not going to go to waste - he will ride the national championships and wants to perform well there.
"The championships are always very important for Belgium," he said. "I was twice fourth at the championships in the past. I really like the course in Leuven and I think I will be strong there."
After that, he'll sit out the Tour de France, going to altitude training instead in Livigno as part of his buildup for the Vuelta a España. He's likely to target a stage or two in the Spanish Grand Tour, but will also use the race to prepare for the world championships.
He'll go there primarily to ride for Philippe Gilbert and Tom Boonen, the Belgian team's designated leaders, but could have a little freedom too. "I think I will have a chance to go in a breakaway after 200 kilometres and see what happens."