Van Avermaet: I had the legs to win Tour of Flanders

It was another nearly-but-not-quite day for Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) at the Tour of Flanders, as he added a third place to the second that he took a year ago. Van Avermaet appeared to be the only one that was able to make a concerted effort in tracking down the leading duo of Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) - although he had Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) for company for a few kilometres - and he felt like he could have got more from the day.

“In the end, I’m happy that I got on the podium but I had the legs to win I think,” Van Avermaet said at the finish.

There were doubts about Van Avermaet’s form leading into the race after a heavy fall during E3 Harelbeke, where he was propelled over his handlebars and landed heavily on his hip. He was able to finish the race but still showed signs of the fall when he took part in Gent-Wevelgem last Sunday. However, that was gone by the time he took to the start in Bruges.

“I was feeling really good the whole way and I tried to make the race hard and when they went, Kristoff and Terpstra, there were still some teams to control the race,” he said. “I tried on the Paterberg with all that I had, and I had Sagan with me but he also wasn’t so strong anymore. I was just hoping that they would wait for me because Kristoff was so much faster than Terpstra in the finish. Last year they didn’t want to ride with me when I was with (Stijn) Vandenbergh so I was hoping that I could come back but I couldn’t make it any more.”

BMC had a major number advantage in the latter part of the race with Daniel Oss shepherding his leader and ably keeping him out of trouble, while Jempy Drucker and Marcus Burghardt present throughout most of the day. Usually that would see the team put the hammer down on the front of the group but BMC directeur sportif Valerio Piva told Cyclingnews that they decided to take a different approach to proceedings.

“I am happy with how our team did today. We changed our tactics a little bit today, we waited a lot,” explained Piva. “Everybody is always looking to BMC to close the gap and today we jumped only and we didn’t move until the final. We always had four or five guys in the front group, we controlled the race and we waited for the attack from Greg.”

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As Cyclingnews stood outside the team’s bus in Oudenaarde, Piva was involved in an animated dissection of the race with team boss Jim Ochowicz, sporting manager Allan Peiper and fellow directeur sportif Fabio Baldato. Like his rider, Piva thought that more was possible but the attack from Terpstra on the Kruisberg had caught them by surprise.

“Honestly think that it was possible to get second place but to win with Kristoff like this it was difficult,” he said. “We missed the move with Kristoff and Terpstra. Greg was asking to prepare an attack at the top of the Kruisberg and he was surprised by the attack of the two and then he did perfect after that but the two guys in front were too strong.

“It was a very tactical race today, the race was opened with only 50 kilometres to go. Everybody was saving energy so everybody was fresh so we know that if you go with a sprinter to the finish it is difficult to win so we needed to attack and Greg was strong but Kristoff and Terpstra were stronger.”

Kristoff began his career with BMC, riding with Van Avermaet in his second and final year at the American outfit. The 29-year-old parted with some kind words for his former teammate. “He’s a really nice guy and I’m happy for him that he won the Tour of Flanders. I would like to win it also but if there was one guy who can win, I’m happy for him.”

Van Avermaet will now take a couple of days to rest up before he begins his challenge for Paris-Roubaix next Sunday.

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Born in Ireland to a cycling family and later moved to the Isle of Man, so there was no surprise when I got into the sport. Studied sports journalism at university before going on to do a Masters in sports broadcast. After university I spent three months interning at Eurosport, where I covered the Tour de France. In 2012 I started at Procycling Magazine, before becoming the deputy editor of Procycling Week. I then joined Cyclingnews, in December 2013.