Van Avermaet Claims Third Classics' Win at Gent-Wevelgem26. March 2017, Wevelgem (BEL) — Road Team
Greg Van Avermaet claimed the win at Gent-Wevelgem – In Flanders Fields, on the back of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Record Bank –E3 Harelbeke, to become the first rider to win all three Classics in the same season since 1981.
After winning two UCI WorldTour Classics in three days, Van Avermaet showed he is the hot favorite for Ronde van Vlaanderen with an aggressive ride over the 249km parcours, which ended with a nail-biting sprint against Jens Keukeleire (ORICA-SCOTT).
The day started with nine riders going clear and building a solid gap of more than seven minutes. Their advantage reduced when cross winds caused echelons in the peloton but eventually, the peloton came back together and began the chase for the breakaway.
With 88km to go, BMC Racing Team made the most of the chaotic conditions of cross winds and crashes, to put in a big push and split the peloton again into six groups.
The race came back together for a second time as the peloton approached the new addition of gravel roads, and it was here that Quickstep-Floors launched a move with a small group of serious contenders going clear.
Stefan Küng, Daniel Oss, Silvan Dillier and Loïc Vliegen put in a huge effort to bring the group back for Van Avermaet as the race entered the final 50km.
It was on the final ascent of the Kemmelberg when Van Avermaet made his move and a group of 14 riders went clear of the peloton. Approaching 20km to go, Keukeleire attacked and Van Avermaet, Nikki Terpstra (Quickstep-Floors), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Soren Kragh Andersen (Team Sunweb) joined.
15km before the line it was just Van Avermaet and Keukeleire left at the front. The duo put in a brilliant effort to stay clear and eventually, it was Van Avermaet who took the win on the line as the peloton came storming home just six seconds behind the duo.
The Winner's Interview with Greg Van Avermaet
Greg, Congratulations! Describe your feeling right now.
“I was not expecting to win Gent-Wevelgem, but I’m really happy. It’s definitely the best start of the season that I’ve ever had. I’ve won three Classics already so it’s an amazing feeling. It’s never easy to win these races and normally Gent-Wevelgem isn’t so much of a race for me. I tried so many times to win here and now I’ve won three all in one season. It’s a wonderful feeling and it gives me extra confidence for Ronde van Vlaanderen.”
It was a chaotic day with cross winds and crashes but you had the team there to protect you in crucial moments. How was it out there?
“The guys, like Stefan Küng and Loïc Vliegen, did a great job to bring Quickstep-Floors back when they went away on the gravel roads. Daniel Oss was strong too the whole day. It was a really hard race for sure and you need a strong team in these races.”
You attacked and created the final selection on the Kemmelberg. Was this the plan?
“The Kemmelberg is always a point when everyone wants to go and I felt really strong there. I hoped to get a good group with me and that’s what happened. Then we went way with strong guys. I was riding really hard the whole time because sometimes when you do a small pull you lose less energy than when you have to close gaps. In a race like this you can’t say we are not going to ride with 20km to go. You have to keep going the whole time. That’s what happened with Jens Keukeleire and I when it was just the two of us. The whole last 10km we weren’t speaking, it was just head down and going as fast as we could. It was a great win and the race was really perfect.”
Three big wins must put you in a fantastic position for Ronde van Vlaanderen?
“For sure. I don’t think I can say anymore that I’m not the favorite. These wins give me extra confidence before next Sunday. I said on Friday that I can beat anyone in the sprint on a hard race. Now we look to Ronde van Vlaanderen and I’m going to give it everything I have.”
Fabio Baldato, Sports Director:
“When you have a strong leader like Greg, who has already won big races, it brings the level up. Everyone gave everything today. Greg wanted to have a hard race so we tried to move and to attack and when we missed the move, the guys were really strong and closed the gap. It was perfect. Our race plan was to race aggressively and not take too many risks that would make the race come down to a sprint. Greg is super strong and there’s not many riders who can do what he does.”
“I hope the success continues to Ronde van Vlaanderen. For sure, Greg is the favorite now. We all need to step up to Greg’s level and do the best we can to put him in the position to win on Sunday.”
Gent-Wevelgem – In Flanders Fields
Deinze > Wevelgem 249km
Top 3: 1. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team), 2. Jens Keukeleire (ORICA-SCOTT), 3. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe)
BMC Racing Team top 3: 1. Greg Van Avermaet, 27. Loïc Vliegen, 39. Daniel Oss