Tour of Flanders favourite Greg Van Avermaet will not expectation get in the way of aggressive racing at this Sunday's Monument.
The Olympic road race champion has been the stand out rider of this year’s Classics campaign, winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, E3 Harelbeke and Ghent-Wevelgem.
BMC‘s star rider is now targeting his fourth cobbled success of this spring at Sunday’s Ronde and he is no mood to play down his chances, saying that he is in the strongest shape he has ever been in and can animate the race the way he wants to.
Equally, the tag as favourite does not weight heavy on him, while he also has revenge to exact after he crashed out of last year’s Flanders midway through the race.
“I know I’m the strongest I’ve ever been in spring and this year the race passes my house,” the Belgian said. “I say it every year: I know the roads so well, I train every day on the parcours, and this year I feel like it’s my turn.
“I’m going to race aggressively and I have seven riders completely dedicated to helping me win. There’s nothing more I can do to prepare. I’m ready.
“My win at Ghent-Wevelgem was incredible and as I said then, I don’t think I can pretend that I’m not the favourite any more for the Tour of Flanders.
“I’ve had the best start to the season possible and what gives me even more confidence is knowing that my favourite race, the race that suits me the most, is still to come.”
Van Avermaet’s biggest rival is world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe). In each of Van Avermaet’s three Classic victories this year, he has beaten Sagan, with the Slovakian only bettering his nemesis once, when he won Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne ahead of Van Avermaet in seventh.
Should Flanders come down to a sprint involving the two riders, BMC’s sports director Fabio Baldato is confident his rider can edge out Sagan and others.
“Greg has proved time and time again this year that he is strong, he is a champion,” Baldato said. “We know that every team will be looking at us on Sunday but when you have a leader as strong as Greg that doesn’t matter.
“Greg knows how to race, when to make a move, and as we have seen at E3 Harelbeke and Ghent-Wevelgem, he can sprint against anyone at the end of a long, hard race.”