Greg Van Avermaet: Yorkshire is a missed opportunity, but I couldn't reach my level

The Belgian finished eighth at the World Championships road race in a gruelling day of torrid conditions

(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium) says he "missed an opportunity" to become world champion in Yorkshire on Sunday, but could not reach the same level that has won him an Olympic title and Paris-Roubaix.

He placed eighth after the rain-soaked ride around Harrogate, but was the best of the Belgian team after they lost Philippe Gilbert due to a crash.

>>> Peter Sagan says he definitely mis-read Yorkshire Worlds road race

"We were not at our best," Van Avermaet told Het Laatste Nieuws. "For me, that was tough, when I know that I cannot reach the top level at that moment, while perhaps I can rise above myself in warm conditions.

"I didn't have the top feeling. And to win a Worlds, everything has to be perfect."

Van Avermaet, 34, said before the race that it could the last opportunity to fill an already rich palmarès with a world title. He rules out the Worlds next year in Switzerland, but now says that maybe he could have a chance in 2021.

"I think there will be another chance [to win the Worlds] in Belgium, if you look at someone like Gilbert, who is three years older than me..." he continued.

"There will be opportunities if I can keep my level. Yorkshire is a missed opportunity. But as they say, you can never give up. That is a bit of my character."

The weight of the Belgian team shifted to Van Avermaet when Gilbert crashed and quit the race. Gilbert, however, had been the one who flourishes in the cold and wet conditions. Ahead of the title fight, Van Avermaet had already said that he prefers sun and dry conditions – which is not what the riders faced.

"We had hoped for more from this Worlds, especially with such a team. We should have brought someone in front when they [Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) and Matteo Trentin (Italy)] rode away, but it is easier said than done," he said.

"Everyone did his best, especially in the weather – really cold and all day in the rain – made it very difficult to change anything.

"I always try to be honest, otherwise I should have been with Sagan when attacked [and finished fifth]. But I finished eighth. There are worse ones... Favourites that were dropped at a 100 kilometres from the finish, so to speak."

Van Avermaet's season comes to a close with three wins: stages in the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and the Tour de Yorkshire, and the GP Cycliste de Montréal. It is the Classics season and the three weeks in the Tour de France that still annoy him.

"I saw that I am now fourth in the world rankings. If I am among the five best riders in the world in terms of points, I cannot say that it is a bad season," he said.

"The Classics were a bit disappointing. Normally I am extremely good in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, and those races were disappointing. I tried to ride a very regular season. That was always my strength. But the outliers are missing a bit."

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