Van Avermaet Takes His Chances in Fast Gent-Wevelgem Finale25. March 2018, Wevelgem (BEL) — Road Team
After claiming the victory at Gent Wevelgem - In Flanders Fields in 2017, Greg Van Avermaet lined up in the hope of defending his title at the 251km race which typically favors the pure sprinters.
With the usual strong winds not predicted to influence the race, the peloton let a six-rider breakaway go clear and gain an advantage of more than nine minutes in the first 150km of the race.
Over the next 50km, the peloton picked up the chase and at times riders were strung out with the fast pace taking its toll.
Multiple small crashes held up riders and saw the peloton regroup, at which point Stefan Küng and Francisco Ventoso went to the front to contribute to the chase.
The action really heated up inside the final 70km when riders started to attack from the bunch but Küng and Ventoso quickly chased them down and with 60km remaining, BMC Racing Team made their intentions clear with a strong display of team work with Küng, Ventoso, Bettiol and Schär leading the peloton with Van Avermaet tucked in safely in the train.
More attacks followed and Küng chased hard to find himself in a 12-rider group that hovered just in front of the bunch, allowing many of the race favourites, including Van Avermaet to make the junction.
48km before the finish line, Küng was involved in a crash that brought down multiple riders and saw him require a bike change while ahead, the reduced bunch powered on.
Jürgen Roelandts was the next BMC Racing Team rider to jump clear in the next wave of attacks and as the group came back together before the second time on the Kemmelberg, Van Avermaet made sure he was well-positioned at the front of the bunch which had swelled in size when more chase groups made it back on.
Some stronger winds and a fast pace caused new splits in the bunch with Van Avermaet making the first selection in what would be the group that would eventually make it to the finish line.
After catching the last breakaway riders, the 29-rider group was cooperating well and managed to build a one-minute advantage on the chase groups behind.
A fast pace made any attacks in the final 10km difficult and, although Van Avermaet tried his luck with a move 1.5km before the line, the race came down to a bunch sprint won by Peter Sagan, with Van Avermaet crossing the line in 14th place.
The cobbled classics continue this week with Dwars Door Vlaanderen the next race on Wednesday, 28 March.
Quotes from the Finish Line
Greg Van Avermaet:
“We wanted to make the race hard and make a good result. We tried to do as good as possible but I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t do better. I had good legs, I was feeling good but I think I made some mistakes at the end and it would have been nice to have some extra support at the end in the sprint. I had to find my own way through and I’m not super good in a big group. Then, it’s nice to have some guys to lead me out and this didn’t happen. I was expecting a little more from today result-wise.”
“I hoped that some guys would come with me [when I attacked with 1.5km to go] because there was a small gap and some hesitation in the group. Some guys closed the gap and it was hard to get back into position. I think my shape is similar to last year. Like I said at the beginning of the year, the results last year were super good, everything went perfect, especially here in Gent-Wevelgem which is a hard race for me to win. But, feeling-wise I have the same feeling as last year, maybe even a little bit better I’m happy with my form and happy wiht my legs so I hope to make a result in the next races.”
"The crash happened so quickly. All I remember was seeing the derailleur of the guy in front of me taking out my front wheel. But, it was a little movement in the group, a little wave, and I think I was looking down to take a bottle. I was inattentive for one second and then it happened and I couldn't do anything. I waited for a bike change and was able to get back to the bunch but for positioning it was hard, and the crash had kind of broken my morale a bit. Now, I'm not so happy how I handled it after the crash because then on the Kemmelberg I was too far back. If the guys in front of you are basically standing still there is nothing you can do. You can't go around them. I'm feeling ok now and I'll be ready to race again."
Dr. Dario Spinelli on Stefan Küng’s condition:
"Stefan Küng was involved in a crash with other riders and landed on his right side. Fortunately, he was able to continue racing. Initial observation following the race suggests that he has no serious injuries, just some contusions on his right hip and arm and normal road rash. We have already treated his wounds and will continue to monitor his recovery, but he will be normally able to line up at Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday without any problems."
Gent-Wevelgem: In Flanders Fields
Deinze > Wevelgem (251km)
Top 3: 1. Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe), 2. Elia Viviani (Quickstep Floors), 3. Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ).
BMC Racing Team top 3: 14. Greg Van Avermaet, 64. Stefan Küng, 65. Michael Schär.