Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) missed his chance to win the Tour of Flanders again, but says it was not his job to chase down solo Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First) and lead the others to the finish line.
Bettiol won the race solo with an attack from the Oude Kwaremont. Behind, the others looked at each other, not willing to work to take strong sprinters like Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates), the 2015 winner, and Michael Matthews (Sunweb) to the finish line in Oudenaarde.
>> Struggling to get to the shops? Try 5 issues of Cycling Weekly magazine for just £5 delivered to your door <<
“For me it was the case, if I went full, I’d bring a lot of fast guys with me who were not pulling for the whole day,” the Belgian said.
“So you are always making the tempo on the climbs for the guys following so it was not my job to take them to the line and let them win Flanders. That was not the answer.
“I tried to do my best and hoped to do a good race but then yeah, I tried to do a good result but not for first.”
Van Averment, 33 years old, rode his 13th Tour of Flanders. He has finished second twice so far, in 2017 and 2014, but is still missing a win to add to his 2018 Paris-Roubaix and 2016 Olympic road race title.
Once Bettiol attacked, the group of 15 still had many danger men for the sprint. He and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) tried to split the group, but it wouldn’t happen.
“I was quite good and happy with my form, I think you saw on the climbs, I was with the best in the race,” he continued.
“I did my best as much as possible, but we didn’t have enough gaps especially on the last climb on the Paterberg, I was hoping to go with a strong group of riders to close the gaps, but when you come on the top with 15 with some fast riders it’s hard to work together to catch Bettiol back.”
The race began to take shape early after the famous Kapelmuur. Danny Van Poppel (Jumbo-Visma) attacked, Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-Quick Step) came to the fore and Van Avermaet too.
“It broke up fast after the Muur, I thought that was a good thing for me because I was was in the first group, but then I spent some energy and it was for nothing because the group came back,” he said.
“And then [the race began] on the Kwaremont the second time, like always, but it was really hard to make a big gap on the others. A lot of riders are on the same level and it was hard to make a good race against the others.”
Trying to put his finger on any mistakes, Van Avermaet pointed 100 kilometres down the road.
“Maybe I could’ve saved a bit more after the Muur having known how it ended up but in the end, I did the final how I wanted to do it.”
Van Avermaet was not too surprised with Bettiol’s win, having had a chance to know him well riding last year with him in Team BMC Racing.
“I think the performance of Bettiol was the biggest one, no one expected him for the win,” Van Avermaet continued. “He was my team-mate last year. I saw he had some attention, but he was never had a super level in BMC. No one was expecting this.”