The Olympic road race champion Greg Van Avermaet is number four in our countdown of the 100 Best Road Riders of 2016
4. Greg Van Avermaet
31, Belgium, BMC Racing
2016 wins: 6
The course was said to suit a more out-and-out climber, and had Vincenzo Nibali not gone down in a late crash that probably would have been the case. So brutal was the parcours expected to be that Peter Sagan went mountain biking instead.
None of this fazed Van Avermaet who rode intelligently within his own capabilities on the climbs and then proved to be the strongest and tactically most capable when the finish line came into sight.
The former win showed a glimpse of the Classics form that’s expected of him, and the latter win was helped by a reduction in the metres climbed due to poor weather.
His sparring with Sagan at Tirreno showed a rivalry that could bring much excitement over the coming seasons, but with hindsight may have highlighted a missed viewing opportunity at the Olympics.
Van Avermaet’s victory in the Grand Prix de Montréal also temporarily denied Peter Sagan the lead in the UCI WorldTour points ranking.
Among the favourites for the Tour of Flanders, Van Avermaet crashed out early in the race and did not return to competition for over a month.
Building towards the Olympics, he showed that he could mix it on the longer climbs as well as on the Belgian bergs when, wearing the Tour de France yellow jersey, he extended his lead at the top of the GC on a day he was expected to forfeit his advantage.
A competent all rounder, Van Avermaet should soon count a number of Monument wins in his palmarès if his career trajectory continues on its current path. With four or five seasons left at the top his should be a fruitful career.