Van Avermaet: Belgium to play on collective strength at Worlds

Belgium head into the World Championships with four potential team leaders and Greg Van Avermaet is confident the star-studded roster can produce a winning result. The Belgian, who won the GP de Wallonie on Wednesday, told Cyclingnews that the national team would use their collective strength to take on their rivals in Ponferrada, Spain, in under a fortnight.

Belgium announced their squad on Tuesday morning with Van Avermaet, former winners Tom Boonen, Philippe Gilbert, and debutant Sep Vanmarcke all making the cut. All four can claim to have a reasonable shot at leadership, with Vanmarcke winning a stage Tour of Alberta. Boonen and Gilbert recently completed the Vuelta a Espana and haven't showed enough form to claim outright leadership, while Van Avermaet impressed with strong performances in the Canadian World before his GP de Wallonie triumph.

"We have Tom [Boonen] and Philippe [Gilbert] who are both former winners. Then there's me and Sep Vanmarcke who has some good results but no one is really peaking with their form at the moment," Van Avermaet told Cyclingnews before his Wednesday win.

"Phil and Tom, if they'd had super good years, then they would be the leaders but now it's a bit more even. We have to see in the last few weeks who has the best shape and then decide a week before as to who has the responsibility but I think we can play with a few cards," he added.

"We have a strong team so maybe someone can get in the break and that's perhaps the way we need to race.

"It's going to be hard but it's perhaps the only solution we can take because no one is really topping the list. We've been together for a long time as a group though, since before Valkenburg, so we understand each other."

Van Avermaet has yet to recon the course in Ponferrada, Spain but after Canada he has returned to racing in Belgium before travelling to see the course. He, like many of his national teammates, has studied the course via the use of video.

"It's a good course for me and there are some tough last few sections. I'm looking forward to racing it. I've been to a few Worlds and for me this one is a bit like Geelong, although the climbs there were a bit steeper. I was fifth in Geelong though and last year was maybe a little bit too hard for me."

Overall, Van Avermaet has enjoyed one of his best seasons with the former soccer goalkeeper finishing second in both Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the Tour of Flanders. He took part in just his second Tour de France in the summer but has begun to show shoots of form in recent weeks.

"I think I've had one of my best years. I've stepped up again to another level but it could have been even better. I've been close a few times but you can't rush progress so I just need to make sure that I'm working hard at improving," he said.

"It's been a long season with the Classics and then the Tour so my season has changed slightly from years before but it's one of my strengths to be consistent. There have been a lot of goals this year so I'm just trying to keep my form as stable as possible."

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