With nine kilometres to race Greg Van Avermaet put in his bid for Dwars door Vlaanderen victory as he launched a ferocious attack that would only be brought back within the final 250 metres on the Weregem finishing straight. The move by Van Avermaet was initially covered by Etixx-Quick Step’s Nikolas Maes but the BMC rider proved too strong and quickly had a 10 second advantage over the small chase group with the Nokereberg the only obstacle in his path to a fourth win of the season.
"It was all or nothing. It became nothing. It's a pity," Van Avermaet said after finishing in 32nd place.
Van Avermaet had led into the final left-corner and onto the finishing straight before Fernando Gaviria and the remnants of the peloton surged past with around 250 metres to go. Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal) timed his run to perfection and pipped Bryan Coquard on the line as Van Avermaet watched the victory pass him by.
"If you attack in the final you know it's all or nothing. I had a small gap and I tried to build on it and keep it until the finish. In the end they caught me back and then it was over," said Van Avermaet, explaining the thinking behind his late move. "It's always a hard race. I tried to save energy and try something in the final. I wanted to win but everything had to go my way to win but I fell just short."
With a sombre start to the day, there was a minute of silence on the start line in Roeselare to honour the victims of the attacks in Brussels, once the flag was dropped to signal the départ réel Van Avermaet explained the riders were immediately switched on and ready.
"There was a lot of action in the race. After making the stop for the minute of silence at the start the race kicked off like usually," he said. "The race was ridden tactically and it was a matter of going at the right moment. I tried it and you know the teams of the sprinters are going to work for a sprint while you hope to stay ahead."
The 30-year-old, who had finished 22nd and 11th in his two last starts at Dwars door Vlaanderen, praised the work of compatriot Loïc Vliegen who is in the midst of his first classics campaign.
"Loic [Vliegen] did a good job today. It's their job in these races to ride for themselves. He did it perfectly," Van Avermaet said of his 22-year-old teammates who finished in 19th place.
BMC and Van Avermaet's next outing is Good Friday's E3 Harelbeke, a race he podiumed at back in 2008, before Gent-Wevelgem and the two monuments, Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
"I feel very good. It's a nice race. It would've been more nice if I won. Hopefully I recover in time for Friday. Then we will see," he said, adding "Now it really started. [laughs]"
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