Van Avermaet Tops Podium at Record Bank E3 Harelbeke24. March 2017, Harelbeke (BEL) — Road Team
Greg Van Avermaet showed he is in winning form when he sprinted to victory at Record Bank E3 Harelbeke, his second UCI WorldTour individual victory of the season.
The sprint for the line came down to Van Avermaet, Philippe Gilbert (Quickstep-Floors) and Olivier Naesen (AG2R), after the trio proved the strongest on the day when they dropped the rest of the field with 30km to go.
Earlier, it took almost two hours of racing for a breakaway to go clear when the peloton finally let six riders escape.
The pace in the peloton remained high and the race took a turn when Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Floors) attacked on the Taaienberg with 75km to go. Daniel Oss immediately jumped on Boonen's wheel and a small group of around 20 riders formed, including Van Avermaet and Loïc Vliegen.
The group powered away from the peloton and had a small gap to begin with, before putting the hammer down, extending their lead and catching the breakaway with 66km to go. 30km later, the group was down to seven riders and within 10km, the podium trio had established a solid lead.
Behind, the peloton tried to bridge the gap but their multiple attacks were covered brilliantly by Oss, Vliegen and Silvan Dillier.
With 10km to go, the Van Avermaet trio had almost two minutes on the bunch and it was clear the podium would be decided in the sprint.
Van Avermaet kept a close eye on Gilbert and Naesen and had the legs to edge Gilbert out on the line, with Naesen coming in behind.
Van Avermaet's win sees him lead the UCI WorldTour individual ranking.
The Winner's Interview with Greg Van Avermaet
Congratulations Greg! How does it feel to win today?
"This is a really nice win. I know how hard it is to win here. At the beginning of the year, I had only been on the podium once here in 2008. That says it enough, I think. Every year I come back with high expectations and every year it is hard to win this kind of race. I am happy that I have two wins in my pocket now but at the beginning of the season, I said that Tour of Flanders is my big goal. That still has to happen, but it is nice to start with two victories on home soil."
Were you confident you could win the sprint?
"I was confident, but you are never sure. You have to believe in yourself to win a sprint. I knew that if everything went right, I could beat everyone in a sprint on a hard race but you have to be really focused and everything has to go perfectly. But Gilbert has a good sprint, so you are never 100% sure."
How can you describe the team’s efforts today?
"I think we were much better today than in Milan-San Remo. I also made a mistake there to not get into the right position at a crucial moment, but today they did well. They positioned me in the right place. Daniel Oss has to stand up; he is a good guy. I really believe in him, and he is one of the strongest riders in the peloton and with Stefan Küng and Jempy Drucker, I think we can be confident. We don't have the team like Quickstep-Floors, but we have strong guys who can help me, and I am really confident in them."
Does the win give you confidence before Ronde van Vlaanderen?
"It always helps with your confidence going into a big race when you get the win, and the guys know that I am good and that I will always try. If you win, you see that the team gets stronger and more confident. It's good to start a race like Ronde van Vlaanderen with the confidence of the team. They know I am ready and when the leader is good, most of the time the team comes also."
Fabio Baldato, Sports Director:
"Greg was looking strong today, and he wanted to go early. Behind him, the team was really strong and controlling the other moves and the other riders. Daniel Oss, Silvan Dillier, and Loïc Vliegen were up there, and if we hadn't lost Jempy Drucker and Martin Elmiger due to flat tires, I am sure they would have been up there too. I am happy with the team and the job they did, and of course, Greg was amazing finishing off the job and taking the win."
"Greg was driving the race along. He knew what he wanted to do and what he need to do. He made a move with two strong guys and then did a super job to do what we hoped, and knew, he could. We are confident for the next two Classics, and we go to Gent-Wevelgem with Greg as our leader once again. For now, we can enjoy today before we start to refocus for Sunday and then towards Ronde van Vlaanderen."
Harelbeke > Harelbeke 206km
Top 3: 1. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team), 2. Philippe Gilbert (Quickstep-Floors), 3. Olivier Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale).
BMC Racing Team top 3: 1. Greg Van Avermaet, 20. Daniel Oss, 40. Loïc Vliegen