Following on from his win at Gent-Wevelgem yesterday, Greg van Avermaet has described the past few months as the best season start that he has ever had.
His victory, along with his wins at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Record Bank –E3 Harelbeke, means he has become the first rider to win all three Classics in the same season since 1981 when Jan Raas achieved the feat.
“I was not expecting to win Gent-Wevelgem, but I’m really happy,” he said after the race. “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.”
Van Avermaet also paid tribute to his team on a day which saw numerous crashes and the peloton facing a number of difficult crosswind sections.
“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,” said van Avermaet. “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.”
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 Kemmelberg is always a point when everyone wants to go and I felt really strong there,” he said. “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.”
As regards his chances in the Tour of Flanders, he said: “For sure. I don’t think I can say anymore that I’m not the favourite. 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.”