After countless podium places the BMC Racing rider had finally netted a major spring win. However the Belgian’s focus remains on the Tour of Flanders, a race he has twice finished on the podium in. The 30-year-old believes that he has a number of years to win the prized Monument and although he is in fine form, he is not putting excess pressure on his shoulders.
In Omloop Het Nieuwsblad’s last kilometres no rider from the breakaway group tried to attack and in the sprint Van Avermaet took the initiative at about 200 metres from the finish line. Nobody was able to even hold his wheel. “There was headwind so there was no way to go, to jump. For me, I knew I could beat Tiesj. I could beat Rowe. There was only one guy that I was a little bit scared of because he did really long pulls. If you see his pull on Lange Munte: everybody was screaming in his wheel, to hold the wheel. For me it was no option to attack. When I saw the finish on the recon I knew it was a good finish for me. I was pretty happy with this finish. A little bit uphill after a hard race. I was believing in myself. I came in a good position there. There were only 200 metres to go. I know that if I can start my sprint at a certain sprint it’s very hard to beat me.
“Sagan? Sometimes you have to focus on your own abilities. If I would’ve waited for Sagan’s acceleration then maybe I wouldn’t have been able to get over him. I know that I could do that distance. I started my sprint and hoped that nobody would come over me. That’s how it worked out.”
The focus from Van Avermaet is fully on the Tour of Flanders. He’s not the youngest rider anymore but still he felt that there are enough years left to get the big win his aiming for.
This isn’t a case of now or never for the BMC Racing rider. “No, I’m still making progress. I will still ride a few years. Even when I’m 35 I’ll still be able to win the Tour of Flanders. For sure the years are [going by]. There’s only one Tour of Flanders every year. Every chance you have to take with both hands. I was twice on the podium. It doesn’t have to happen this year but I would like to do it.”
When asked whether the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad fitted him better than other classics Van Avermaet partly agreed. “Maybe. But I always had the feeling that Flanders is the best race for me because it’s longer. I’m a guy who gets better when it gets longer. For me it’s always pretty hard in a 200 kilometres long race like the E3 Harelbeke. It’s a hard race but for me it’s always harder to get a result in Harelbeke than in Flanders. This race suits me. Maybe it’s early in the season and everybody is still waiting for their form. When you’re heading to Gent here it’s so hard. This one feels like a big classic in the end and this is in my advantage.”