3. Greg Van Avermaet
32, Belgium, BMC Racing
2017 wins: 8
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Olympic glory aside, Greg Van Avermaet’s season every year pretty much lives or dies by how well he does in the spring campaign.
A regular podium finisher in the Classics, 2017 will go down as the year GVA wrote his name as one of the true greats of the spring one-day races.
It kicked off with a powerful sprint finish to beat arch-rival Peter Sagan at the newly WorldTour Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, before a trip to Italy saw him miss out on victory at Strade Bianche only to an in-form Michal Kwiatkowski.
Next up was a controlled performance to beat Belgian champion Philippe Gilbert and Oliver Naesen at E3 Harelbeke, before taking victory at Ghent-Wevelgem two days later.
The BMC man’s big hope was to finally add the Tour of Flanders to his palmarès, but a sensational 55km solo effort from Gilbert and a late crash on the Oude Kwaremont put paid to that. But it was almost more impressive that he still managed to grab second place.
Despite all the victories he’d so far amassed, that loss would have come as a major blow to Van Avermaet’s spring, although he wouldn’t have long to wait to finally get his name on a Monument.
Another crash at particularly cagey (but fast) edition of Paris-Roubaix looked to have dented his chances before the race had really begun in earnest. But Van Avermaet persevered with the help of team-mate Daniel Oss to out-sprint Zdenek Stybar for victory in the Roubaix velodrome.
A third place finisher in 2015, Van Avermaet had never quite shown the promise in the Hell of the North as he had at Flanders, but his victory there well-and-truly crowned him the King of the Classics and helped him on his way to winning the UCI WorldTour rankings. A man certainly worthy of third place in the best riders of 2017.