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Van Avermaet to have his chances in Milan-San Remo

Greg Van Avermaet (Silence Lotto)

Greg Van Avermaet (Silence Lotto) (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)

Greg Van Avermaet will have a free hand in Milan-San Remo, and will not have to set aside his own ambitions in favour of captain Philippe Gilbert. Omega Pharma-Lotto team manager Marc Sergeant confirmed that Van Avermaet will be able to seek his own chances early on in the race.

The 24-year-old has ridden the race twice before, finishing 52nd in 2008 and 13th last year. "Milan- San Remo is a good race for me," he told the Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad. "It is a goal. I have survived the Poggio and Cipressa twice."

Van Avermaet opened the season with a strong showing in the Tour of Oman time trial, but was then laid flat by intestinal problems. This caused him to do poorly in the opening Belgian weekend of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. "I was disappointed but never panicked."

His most recent race was Tirreno-Adriatico, where he finished 12th overall. He did not contest for any stage wins there, because "the finishes were something for either a pure sprinter or a pure climber. I'm neither." He decided to concentrate on getting the power back into his legs, and "I could better save those forces for Saturday, right?"

The rest of the team will ride on Saturday for Gilbert, "and I am the only allowed to have a free role. Unless I do not feel good."

Sergeant confirmed that Van Avermaet will have his chance. "If the race breaks open on the Cipressa, then Van Avermaet and Jurgen Roelandts will go. This is their chance."

Later in the race, though, Gilbert will be in charge. "Once on the Poggio, then we will be resolute about playing the Gilbert card. Logical, I think," Sergeant continued. "Philippe stands - with such palmares - still a bit above the rest of the team. Until the contrary is proven."