Having achieved an early-season goal of winning a monument at Paris-Roubaix, Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet's remaining 2017 ambitions revolve around the Tour de France and World Championships. However, following a recon of the Bergen Worlds course by Belgian national coach Kevin De Weert, Oliver Naesen (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Yves Lampaert (QuickStep-Floors), the BMC rider is unsure it is suited to his characteristics.
Naesen, Van Avermaet's regular training partner, sent a text to Van Avermaet, who remained home in Belgium for the opening the Velo loft bike shop he co-owns with former professional Rik Verbrugghe, informing him of the course.
"He said it is not so difficult," Van Avermaet said according to Het Nieuwsblad. "Not that it really is a big surprise. It was said that regarding difficulty it would be something between theTour of Flanders and Amstel Gold Race."
After his successful cobbled classics campaign that includes wins at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix and second in Flanders, Van Avermaet was 12th at Amstel Gold Race and 11th at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. However, the 31-year-old explained that having looked over the 276.5km profile he doesn't believe 2017 is the year he'll add a rainbow jersey to his palmares despite reaching a new versatile and consistent level in 2017.
"I had already done some research and found that the elevation and climbs were quite good. There is a climb of over a kilometre [Salmon Hill, ed], but that is a bit like the Tiegemberg," he said about the Belgian climb which regularly features in the cobbled classics. "Yes, I'm a little disappointed because it's not supercharged."
In 2015, Harald Tiedemann Hansen, the president of the Norwegian cycling federation explained the course is one which suits the characteristics of Norwegian riders like Alexander Kristoff and Edvalad Boasson Hagen. A statement that Van Avermaet believes to be true, tipping Kristoff as the man to beat.
"In such countries, they always take into account which countryman is in shape," he said in reference to the course design. "They will not make it difficult, so Kristoff will always be able to get along, but it's hard enough to cut off the super-printers like Cavendish and Kittel."
He explained his thinking further to Sporza, suggesting that Belgium "should organize a World Championships and a course on which the Belgians are good".
While Van Avermaet appears resigned to accepting his bid for the Worlds will have to wait, believes he can add to his 2015 and 2016 Tour de France stage wins in July and possibly enjoy another stint in yellow.
"I hope to be very good, because I see some opportunities. We return to Rodez, where I won two years ago," he told Sporza. "The yellow jersey? You need a good prologue. It may not be impossible, but there is a mountain stage follows soon and then I will lose a lot of time."
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