Belgian Greg Van Avermaet says that the World Championships course in Bergen, Norway is ideal and that for Sunday’s road race, he is “not afraid” of top rivals Michael Matthews (Australia) and Peter Sagan (Slovakia).
Sagan won the last two editions in 2015 and 2016 and is again a favourite with riders like Matthews and Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland). Van Avermaet says that if the race ends in a small sprint, he can manage them.
“I’ve already knocked out those men in sprints, so I have to have confidence,” Van Avermaet told Het Nieuwsblad.
“I’m not afraid of them and after a long and hard course, I’m fast.”
Van Avermaet, or ‘Golden Greg’ as he is known in Belgium, carried the weight well after winning the 2016 Olympic road race. This spring, he won E3 Harelbeke, Ghent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix with his BMC Racing team.
He timed his fitness well, placing second in the recent GP Québec behind Peter Sagan.
Last year, he appeared on track too. The 32-year-old placed second in the GP Québec – again behind Sagan – and won the GP Montréal. However, in the worlds in Doha, Qatar, he appeared to be off form and Belgian team-mate Tom Boonen sprinted to third place.
“The Worlds is almost a month earlier than last year. I feel much fresher now because I adjusted my programme,” Van Avermaet added.
“I don’t have a recent victory in my legs, but that is also the nature of the races I rode. There were not many opportunities in the Tour, and then I really worked towards my last goals this year: the Canadian races and the Worlds. My condition is good.”
The forecast shows sun and 18°C for the former Viking port city this Sunday. The Belgian team, which includes Philippe Gilbert, previewed the circuit on Wednesday in the rain.
“It’s a nice circuit, the weather can make a difference, but wet or dry, the many kilometres will make it tough,” said Van Avermaet.
“It is a course that offers possibilities: it’s technical, with little cobbles, there is a bit of everything in it and the final as well. There is a small slope about 500 metres from the finish where you can position yourself, so I’m happy about it.”
To the list of favourites, Van Avermaet added Italian Matteo Trentin and new time trial champion, Dutchman Tom Dumoulin.