Van Avermaet skips Il Lombardia to end to his season early

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) has decided to skip Il Lombardia and end his season with immediate effect. The Belgian has an unassailable lead atop the UCI WorldTour standings and has decided to bring a slightly early halt to his campaign in order to enjoy a longer lay-off ahead of the 2018 season.

“I've looked at the options and maybe it's better to stop two weeks earlier and take some rest than do anything else,” Van Avermaet said, according to Sporza.

Van Avermaet experienced a sparkling run of form in the Spring, winning Paris-Roubaix, Gent-Wevelgem, E3 Harelbeke and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and placing second at the Tour of Flanders and Strade Bianche.

The Belgian made the World Championships in Bergen the centrepiece of the final part of his season, but he had to settle for sixth place behind Peter Sagan in the sprint. Van Avermaet placed second at the Grand Prix de Québec in the build-up to the Worlds to pad out his WorldTour lead.

“On the one hand, it has been a long season in which I participated to win everywhere I went. At the end of the season, you look at your options. Perhaps I would like to ride Il Lombardia, but the race is two weeks after the World Championships,” Van Avermaet explained.

“It was difficult to keep race form, so it might be better to stop two weeks earlier and take some rest with a view to next year. Il Lombardia is one of the hardest races of the year, and you either start with ambition and try to win, or you stay at home.”

Van Avermaet admitted that his decision to end his campaign had been influenced by the fact that Chris Froome (Team Sky), who lies second in the WorldTour rankings, has already brought the curtain down on his season.

“If he had raced, I'd be there too,” Van Avermaet said. “I’ve been number 1 in the rankings since the Tour of Flanders. It would be stupid to let it slip away in the last weeks.

“I'm proud that I can finish as the best in the world. I realize how hard it is. Last year I had a super year and I was still only sixth or seventh. Other years it was even very difficult to get into the top 10. That shows how strong my year has been.”

After opening his Monuments account by winning Paris-Roubaix this year, Van Avermaet will again target the cobbled Classics in 2018, where he will expect to do battle once more with the world champion Sagan.

Van Avermaet felt that Sagan’s disqualification from the Tour de France on stage 4 in Vittel ultimately stood to the Slovak’s benefit in the final weeks of the season.

“With his exclusion in the Tour, he was able to save power while I had a heavy season,” Van Avermaet said.

“Winning a race depends on details. I didn't honestly think Peter was so impressive in the World Championships, although he has an enormous killer instinct and he won easily. I usually have to try to ride away from him. I prefer to ride man against man like in the Classics - that way I'm better off.”

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