Van Avermaet Battles to Fifth Place in Epic Edition of Tour of Flanders1. April 2018, Oudenaarde (BEL) — Road Team
Greg Van Avermaet claimed fifth place in a hard fought Tour of Flanders finale to continue his run of top ten finishes at the iconic second Monument of the season.
The battle started from kilometer 0 when attack after attack was shut down and a breakaway didn’t go away until after 70km, creating a tough opening two hours of the race, coupled with cold weather and rain.
Alberto Bettiol was the first casualty for BMC Racing Team after crashing in the first 10km and although he was able to continue racing, he was forced to abandon when the peloton passed through Oudenaarde for the first time after 120km.
The ten-rider breakaway gained a maximum advantage of five minutes at the halfway mark and heading into the final 120km, BMC Racing Team moved up to the front of the peloton for the first time and positioned Van Avermaet well as the race started to heat up.
Michael Schär was caught in a nasty crash with 98km to go and was forced to join Bettiol on the sidelines but fortunately did not sustain any serious injuries.
A huge effort at the front of the bunch from Francisco Ventoso was followed by strong teamwork from Jempy Drucker, Jürgen Roelandts, and Stefan Küng, particularly in the final 60km when the peloton began to close in on the breakaway and the battle for positioning played out.
The finale started on the Koppenberg when half of the bunch was caught out on the steep slopes and split the group by blocking all riders behind. Van Avermaet made it through at the front surrounded by his teammates and gave the first indication of his strong form with an attack of the Taaienberg which put riders in difficulty behind.
In the last 30km, a select group of favourites, featuring Van Avermaet and Roelandts, was chasing the leading trio of Dylan Van Baarle (Team Sky), Mads Pederson (Trek Segafredo) and Sebastien Langeveld (EF Education-First Drapac Powered by Cannonade) and once the trio was within 12 seconds, Niki Terpstra (Quickstep Floors) attacked to bridge and then overtake to become the solo leader.
Roelandts led the chase behind but lack of cooperation saw Terpstra’s advantage grow and despite attacks and more cooperation in the group in the final 15km, the group failed to bring Terpstra back.
Pederson remained between Terpstra and Van Avermaet’s group under the flamme rouge and was able to hold on for second place behind Terpstra, while Van Avermaet’s group was left to battle for the final podium spot.
Van Avermaet sprinted to fifth place after a tough 265km in the saddle.
Quotes from the Finish Line
Greg Van Avermaet:
"It was a hard moment so I think he [Niki Terpstra] made a really strong move, dropping guys like Vincenzo Nibali from his wheel because there was some reaction afterward. I think probably the strongest guy won today. I think I was able to do something and I was one of the strongest guys in the race but I think Terpstra was maybe just a little bit better than everyone else and took the right move. It was pretty impressive that he kept this effort going all the way to the line because we didn't wait too long to react."
"You look at each other in the chasing group but the problem is nobody is really strong enough to go away and make a gap and in that way it is normal that you close in on each other and you get a bit stuck. That's the kind of feeling I had here and also at the races before." "I've been at this race a few times in the past and experienced a great sense of disappointment as I had the feeling that I could win, but today I could have maybe done second or third but not the win so I am pretty happy with how I raced. I think some other years, like last year, I had the feeling that I could win and today was a different edition. It was hard to win for me."
Fabio Baldato, Sport Director:
"I am 100% satisfied with the team today. They did an amazing race. It was a pity we lost Alberto Bettiol due to a crash and Michael Schär as well but today was really an epic day. It was raining almost all day and most of the time the race was wet and dangerous. The guys rode great, in particular Jürgen Roelandts at the end and before that, Stefan Küng who was super important. Going up the Kwaremont for the second time, Greg was stuck behind a bit as it was a crazy approach with the group going 70km/h downhill to the bottom of the climb which was dangerous for me. Stefan did a great job to bring Greg in front and from the Paterberg and the Koppenberg the team was there. Of course, Greg tried something but we saw immediately that Quick-Step Floors, who still had the numbers, was the team that could make trouble and put us in difficulty."
"Greg is super and we saw again here that at the end, he had the fastest sprint of the chase group and he even started from the front. We know that everybody watched him and tried to anticipate what he would do for the third spot. We are confident looking to Paris-Roubaix. I think Greg has the same legs as last year but we will need to have a little bit of luck and hopefully the team can race like today and not give up."
Tour of Flanders
Antwerp > Oudenaarde (265km)
Top 3: 1. Niki Terpstra (Quickstep Floors), 2. Mads Pederson (Trek Segafredo), 3. Philippe Gilbert (Quickstep0Floors).
BMC Racing Team top 3: 5. Greg Van Avermaet, 6. Jürgen Roelandts, 31. Jempy Drucker