A disconsolate Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) admitted that he was out of position when the winning group formed in Paris-Roubaix. The 2017 winner was left behind in a group of frustrated rivals and would eventually claim 12th place in the Roubaix velodrome, 47 seconds after Philippe Gilbert (Quickstep) had won his first Paris-Roubaix title.
“I’m disappointed because probably with these legs I could have been better. That’s just how it is,” Van Avermaet told Cyclingnews at the finish line.
CCC Team put their leader in contention ahead of the first sector of cobbles, and even threw men into the first break of the day with Kamil Gradek and Michael Schär forming part of a large group that hit the first stones almost a minute clear of the main field.
By the time the remnants of the field hit sector 12 at Auchy, Van Avermaet still had riders around him but he was too far back when Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) led a counter attack that included Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education FIrst), and Yves Lampaert (Deceuninck-QuickStep). They caught Gilbert and Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin), and within a few kilometres the six-rider move had established a winning margin that set the tone for the final kilometres.
“It was a hard day and it wasn’t easy,” Van Avermaet said as he did up his jacket. “I wasn’t really awake when the six guys went and then my race was almost over.
“I was a bit too far [back]. I thought that it was a bit too early, and it was a real mistake to not be in that group of six. I think that if I was there then for sure they weren’t going to drop me. That’s just how it is. I think the legs were good and we saw in the end how close I could come but it was just a tactical mistake.”
AG2R La Mondiale and Bahrain Merida were two squads that had the numbers to mount a chase but their efforts proved to be in vain as the gap to the Gilbert group remained intact. Van Avermaet would later rally with a vicious acceleration through the Carrefour de l’Arbre but by then his chances of winning were effectively over.
“I was waiting for Carrefour de l’Arbre to make the difference to try and make it to the front group but I wasn’t able to come close,” he said.