After a prolific spring which saw him bag his first Monument last week at Paris-Roubaix, and numerous other victories, Greg Van Avermaet finished his spring out of the top-10 at Amstel Gold.
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The Belgian star had been one of the hot tips to win Sunday’s Dutch race, however, he missed out on the key moves of the race.
He had been close, though. The winning break had been brought back to under 10 seconds on the final climb of the Keutenberg with just 29km to ride, but he did not have legs to bridge across.
With the leading group re-building its advantage, Van Avermaet paid for his recent success with other riders leaving him to bridge the gap.
With the leaders’ advantage approaching 30 seconds, even the added strength of the spring’s other top rider, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), was not enough to salvage the day.
“I was trying to close the gap but Kwiatowski was stronger,” he explained.
“I was staying with Valverde, but we couldn’t close the gap to the front group. That was a key moment of the race. Everyone was on the limit and nobody was strong enough in my group.
“I know then my chance of victory was gone.”
It is not the first time this spring that Van Avermaet has been caught out by a break. His second place at the Tour of Flanders, also behind Sunday’s winner Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) came after being caught on the wrong side of a gap which opened on the Muur van Geraardsbergen.
Even last week’s Paris-Roubaix win came after he managed to patiently close a gap after a mechanical problem.
While Van Avermaet was unable to close the gap on the Keutenberg, second placed Michal Kwiatkowski was able to make contact with that winning group and can go into the rest of this week’s Ardennes Classics pleased with his early form.
As he did when beating Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) at Milan-San Remo, in the final kilometre Kwiatkowski hung off Gilbert’s wheel, before opening up can early sprint.
Although at one point it appeared as if victory would be his, a strong headwind on the finish straight took its toll and he was passed on the line.
“It was great race, but I am not satisfied with the result,” he said afterwards. “I was beaten by a great champion and I am very happy with the team’s performance, with an effort put in by Sergio Henao. We were very motivated to win today.”
Team Sky sport director Servais Knaven was sanguine about the result, saying, “We cannot be happy, but we cannot change it. Together with Gilbert, Kwiato [Kwiatkowski] was the strongest today.”