Van Avermaet Claims Second in Nail-Biting Tour of Flanders Finale2. April 2017, Oudenaarde (BEL) — Road Team
Greg Van Avermaet fought to the very end at the 101st edition of the Tour of Flanders in a nail-biting race that saw the Belgian step on the podium for the third time in his career.
Van Avermaet was left to battle for second place in the sprint with Niki Terpstra (Quickstep-Floors) and Dylan Van Baarle (Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team), behind solo winner Philippe Gilbert (Quickstep-Floors).
Earlier in the 260km race, eight riders went clear in the opening 10km and gained an advantage of more than ten minutes after it clear that the peloton was happy to ease into the action.
The peloton rolled on slowly behind the breakaway until the Muur-Kapelmuur when Quickstep-Floors launched an attack and 14 riders went clear, from which Gilbert eventually launched his winning move.
BMC Racing Team missed the attack and the whole team chased hard with the help of ORICA-SCOTT and Bora-Hansgrohe, however the group's advantage stayed around the one-minute mark.
As the peloton advanced through the cobbled climbs and the second group caught the breakaway, Gilbert went clear from the group and launched his solo mission to the finish.
Meanwhile, Van Avermaet showed his strength and went clear with a few riders to eventually catch the chase group and began to eat into Gilbert's lead, following which Van Avermaet attacked with Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Oliver Naesen (AG2R-La Mondiale) on the Taiienberg.
With 15km to go the trio were trailing Gilbert by 50 seconds when Sagan crashed in first position and took Van Avermaet and Naesen down with him on the Oude-Kwaremont.
Van Avermaet was able to quickly get back on the bike and join Terpstra, Van Baarle, and Matteo Trentin (Quickstep-Floors) in the run in to the finish, but the time lost in the crash was enough to secure the victory for Gilbert.
Van Avermaet showed he still had the legs, after 260km and the crash, to take second place at the second Monument of the season in an excellent show of strength and determination.
Quotes from the Finish Line
Greg Van Avermaet:
“It’s disappointing for me because I was going for the win but it didn’t happen. But that’s how racing is, you have high expectations and you try to achieve them. I did my best and I came second so it is like it is. It was just a little bit of bad luck but there are still more races to come.”
“I think Peter Sagan was close to the barrier or the people and maybe he hit somebody on the side of the road and I was just behind so I couldn’t avoid the crash. That was the moment when maybe we could have still done something with Peter and Oliver Naesen. We could have worked together but then you stop, you crash, and you lose another 30 seconds and then the race is over. If you see how close we still came at the finish I think the race was not over until that point.”
“Gilbert was really strong and he went early. We were a bit behind and it was hard to work together with some guys and then I had to wait until I could get away and try and close the gap. Then it was still one minute so it was a bit too far. But maybe if the crash hadn’t have happened it would have been a different story. Chapeau to Philippe.”
Fabio Baldato, Sports Director:
“In the end, even after the crash, we got the podium and Greg was amazing. He jumped back on the bike quickly and was able to go for second place. For sure it was a hard race and we were in trouble for a moment after the Muur. Then we were able to almost close the gap and bring Greg back into the race. At that point it was up to him to do his race but you can’t control what happened with the crash with Sagan. Greg was amazing to fight like that and bring the podium back. That was the good point for the day but of course, we only want to win. Greg was already on the podium two times; this was his third time. But, we’ll come back and try again.”
“I think without the crash Greg would have had a good shot at bringing Gilbert back because we saw in the last 10km that Gilbert was looking really tired. Already with the crash, Greg was able to bring the gap back to under 30 seconds just with Van Baarle because Terpstra was on the wheel. With Sagan and Naesen they had a strong group and then it would have been another win. Greg may not have won but he would have been able to fight for the win. This makes up even more motivated for Paris-Roubaix next week. We saw again that Greg is in great shape and he is a fighter. He wants to fight and we as a team want to fight as a team.”
Tour of Flanders
Antwerp > Oudenaarde (260km)
Top 3: 1. Philippe Gilbert (Quickstep-Floors), 2. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team), 3. Niki Terpstra (Quickstep-Floors).
BMC Racing Team Top 3: 2. Greg Van Avermaet, 41. Stefan Kueng, 49. Silvan Dillier.