Holy Week in Belgium, and everybody, it seems, has an opinion on Greg Van Avermaet. Some are more trenchant than others. Eddy Planckaert, 1988 Ronde winner turned television pundit, has already seen enough. “Van Avermaet isn’t right. You can see it,” Planckaert told Het Laatste Nieuws earlier this week. “If he wins the Tour of Flanders, I’ll admit I’m wrong – but I don’t think so.”
Van Avermaet’s showing at a sodden Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday was in keeping with the tenor of his Classics campaign to date: full of whole-hearted endeavour, but without the kind of incision that marked his remarkable winning run of a year ago, when he collected victories at Paris-Roubaix, E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
When the Olympic champion joined Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) in a spirited two-up attack on the Knokteberg with 35 kilometres remaining, it briefly looked as though they might go the distance, but they were pegged back on the cobbles at Varent shortly afterwards.
Almost as soon as they were caught, the winning break of five ghosted off the front, powered by Sep Vanmarcke (EF-Drapac). Van Avermaet hesitated before trying to close the gap and the moment was gone. Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step) won the day, while Van Avermaet was left to compete for scraps in a group policed by Lampaert’s teammates, ultimately placing 8th in Waregem, 59 seconds down. Traffic lights that were always green twelve months ago now keep turning to red.
“It was a good race but not such a good result. I think with these legs, I could have been sprinting for first, for sure, but that’s how the situation sometimes goes,” Van Avermaet said on the steps of the BMC Racing Team bus afterwards.
“Tiesj and I were caught on the Varent, and we hesitated a bit because we had done a big effort before. We looked a bit to the other favourites when Vanmarcke attacked, and Tiesj and me got a bit stuck behind. It was hard to catch up again.”
“I think I’m there for Sunday”
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