Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R Citroën) has opened his Spring Classics campaign at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, and while he says that his results on paper might not be something to celebrate, his performances within the races were promising.
Van Avermaet finished 33rd at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad which ended in a sprint won by Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck-QuickStep) on Saturday. He went onto a much more promising eighth place at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne won by Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) on Sunday.
“I think Nieuwsblad was atypical with the bunch sprint and this race [Kuurne] went like it normally does; a bit of a breakaway, comeback, and a sprint in the end,” Van Avermaet said in a post-race interview in Kuurne.
“I was a bit disappointed about my result yesterday [at Omloop], and I think normally I’m much better in this kind of day but due to circumstances, I was twice on the front when it happened. I have to take confidence with my shape because I think it’s good.
“Today, I felt better at the end of the race than in the beginning, and that’s a good sign. Results-wise we were not that good, but in the performances inside the races, we were always quite good and in the front, and that’s something that we have to take with us to the next races.”
Van Avermaet and his AG2R Citroën teammate Oliver Naesen were the team’s big contenders for Opening Weekend. They both finished in the main field at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and then featured in the select chase group that formed over the Oude Kwaremont at Kuurne, behind a breakaway that included race-favourite Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix).
“It was hard to get into position before Kwaremont but we were there, with me and Oliver in the second group to try to bring back the first group with Mathieu [van der Poel],” said Van Avermaet, who helped pull the gap to the break closer together with riders like Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Victorious), Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates).
“We did a lot of work together to come closer, but it was only really six or seven riders who did the job to come back, and in the end we got them, but it was the finish directly after that,” Van Avermaet said. “It was not so easy but where it happened, we were the strongest guys in the race, and so the result is not that easy to take, but I tried to manage a top-10 place in the end.”
Van der Poel’s breakaway was caught inside the final two kilometres and Pedersen won the reduced bunch sprint, where Van Avermaet finished eighth and teammate Naesen was 16th.
Van Avermaet will now turn his attention to Strade Bianche on March 6 followed by Tirreno-Adriatico from March 10-16, where he won the overall title in 2016.
“I hope to do a good race in Strade but it’s quite hard with a lot of good contenders there. It’s a race that I always love to race and I’m happy to be there,” Van Avermaet said.
“Tirreno is a good build-up, I think, and I’ve won a few stages there already. There is always a good uphill finish and it’s good to get the feeling of sprinting and going for victory, and that’s what I want to do there, to get the feeling of doing good results.”