If there was an omnium for the pair of one-day WorldTour races contested this past Friday and Sunday in Quebec City and Montreal, respectively, then the clear winner would have been Greg Van Avermaet (BMC).
The 28-year-old Belgian earned a podium result in Quebec with a third-place finish behind Robert Gesink (Belkin) and Arthur Vichot (FDJ) from a 10-rider group sprinting for victory. Two days later in Montreal, Van Avermaet was again in the mix in the closing kilometres but had to settle with taking an 8-man sprint for fourth place. Winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale) soloed away with 5.5km to go and the remaining podium spots were claimed by Simone Ponzi (Astana) and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) who jumped away from Van Avermaet's group at the flamme rouge.
While outright victory, if not at least a podium position, was on his mind both days, Friday's third-place finish was the result which proved most frustrating.
"I"m happy with my sprint, finally I won a sprint but it's a pity it was for fourth," Van Avermaet told Cyclingnews following the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal. "But I'm not so disappointed like in Quebec. There I think I could have won the race and here it was not so easy to beat Sagan."
Van Avermaet marked Sagan in the finale in Friday, but Sagan proved to be spent from multiple attacks inside the final six kilometres and sat up once the finishing sprint commenced. Van Avermaet had to do some quick maneuvering and was closing fast on Gesink and Vichot but ran out of road.
Sagan employed similar tactics on Sunday, but this time he had the strength to ride away from his rivals leaving Van Avermaet in a 10-man group vying for the final two podium spots.
"I tried to be in the front but Sagan was away and we knew in the last kilometres it was for second place. We tried to work a little bit together but we didn't get closer. He did a good race and for him it's a nice victory.
"I was in the back of the group when Hesjedal [and Ponzi] went and nobody was reacting - there's always a bit of guessing, it's cycling.
"I'm happy with my condition, but it's hard to win. Sagan's there or there's somebody else, but it's good be in there and get some points for the team."
Van Avermaet was named to Belgium's seven-man world championship squad today, led by defending champion and BMC teammate Philippe Gilbert, and is pleased with his pre-Worlds preparation which largely took place in North American races.
"I think if you have the head mentally to prepare yourself well you can do a lot of good stuff with training and a few races. You can be ready and fresh for Worlds, whereas the Vuelta every year is a little bit harder. It's better to be here [in North America].
"We did a lot of good work and altitude training, I'm happy to go to Worlds with the form I'd like to have and maybe I can win there."
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