Recovering Van Avermaet stronger than expected at Gent-Wevelgem

On Sunday afternoon, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) unexpectedly managed a top-10 result in Gent-Wevelgem. Only two days after skipping the Record Bank E3 Harelbeke due to illness, the 30-year-old Belgian rider remains on track to fight for the wins at the big Spring Classics in the next two weeks.

Van Avermaet was surprised to see that only three riders were stronger than him, despite his illness. He finished fifth in the main field sprint and ninth on the day.

“During the whole race I only had three energy bars and three bottles so I’m not back to normal yet. Now I’ve got to recover a couple of days from this hard race and get better," he said.

"Today I wasn’t in the same great form that I had in the previous weeks. I’ll be in top form at the start”, a warmly dressed Van Avermaet said while sitting in the doorway of the BMC team bus in chilly Wevelgem.

Until Friday Van Avermaet had a flawless build-up towards the biggest Spring Classics. On Wednesday, he was close to completing a long solo effort at Dwars door Vlaanderen. Two days later, though, he noticed flu symptoms and called off his participation in the Record Bank E3 Harelbeke.

On Sunday, he felt fit enough to start in Gent-Wevelgem, not wanting to miss too much racing action ahead of Tour of Flanders.

“I didn’t have the perfect build-up but that’s how it is. Last year I crashed at the E3 Harelbeke and wasn’t very good here [Gent-Wevelgem] but I finished on the podium in Flanders. There’s no problem for me to ride a good race. It’s important to get my power back and then it’ll be alright.”

He narrowly missed the decisive breakaway move with eventual winner and World champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) and Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo) on the Kemmelberg. Van Avermaet finished fifth in the sprint for fifth place.

“I didn’t expect to get this far in the race. Then again, if you just miss the right move then you’re still disappointed a bit. I need to be content though because I didn’t expect much from this race. Only three men were stronger than me [in the main field sprint] so that’s OK.

"I lacked strength. I’ve been ill for a couple of days and it wasn’t easy for me to be at the start but I’m happy about my race. I was on the wheel of Vanmarcke on the Kemmelberg. Just over the top I missed the right-hand corner a bit and lost his wheel. Normally that wouldn’t be a major problem but I lacked the force to do another effort to close the gap back down.

Fabian was pulling very hard over there. If you’re distanced by a couple of metres you’re riding completely into the wind and they were gone. That was my problem.”

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