Greg Van Avermaet caps off great spring campaign with 7th at Liege-Bastogne-Liege
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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Greg Van Avermaet caps off great spring campaign with 7th at Liege-Bastogne-Liege

by Jered Gruber at 9:09 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Liège-Bastogne-Liège
Young Belgian showed that, like his vaunted countryman Gilbert, he too can compete over all terrain

Many scoffed when Greg Van Avermaet said that he wanted to turn his attention to the Ardennes Classics in 2011. After a long Classics campaign that began on the Italian Riviera in March, Van Avermaet can look at a very satisfying effort.

While the Lokeren native didn't win anything or stand on any podiums, the talented young Belgian showed that there is nary a terrain that doesn't suit him. The 25 year old rode aggressively at Milano-Sanremo, going solo on the Poggio before ultimately finishing 9th. Ahead of the year's first monument, he notched up top ten finishes on stages of the Tour of Oman and Tirreno-Adriatico, to go along with 9th at the Montepaschi Strade Bianche. His Belgian campaign was no less solid: 13th at Gent-Wevelgem, 22nd at the Ronde van Vlaanderen, 15th at the Brabantse Pijl, 24th at the Amstel Gold Race, 16th at La Fleche Wallonne. Surprisingly, the final race of his spring campaign turned out to be his best: 7th at Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

Looking back at yet another breakthrough performance, the Belgian was thankful for the help of his team en route to his big result.

"Jeff Louder did a good job of keeping me out of the wind at the beginning and Mathias Frank was working really well when I came up to the first breakaway. He put me in a good position before the Cote de la Redoute."

Van Avermaet rode intelligently on Sunday when he jumped clear of the field on the Haute-Levee and bridged to the early break. From there, it was a game of staying ahead as long as possible and getting ready for the wave from behind.

When the trio of Gilbert and the two Schlecks arrived, Van Avermaet was able to follow. He was in perfect position going into the day's final climb of the Saint-Nicolas, but his legs, luck, and energy ran out on the race's final ascent.

"I had cramps and couldn't get the power in my legs. I hoped to stay in fourth position, but four or five guys came back. It was a good race for me. I can't complain."

The Vuelta stage winner did everything he could to stay clear of the next group behind the leading triumvirate, but there was nothing doing. Kreuziger, Sorensen, and Uran caught him, and when the sprint opened up, Van Avermaet could only put his head down and do everything to stay ahead of a hard charging Vincenzo Nibali.

Afterwards, the BMC all-arounder confessed to hoping for more on Sunday, and promised more in the years to come.

"I really had a good race," said Van Avermaet to Eurosport. "It was my first Liege-Bastogne-Liege. I'm really proud of it, but not really happy, because with my condition, I thought I could do a better result. I will return with the ambition to do better. I was the last able to follow Gilbert and the Schlecks. It's my greatest satisfaction."

When he takes the inevitable next step up, he'll be a frightening prospect to contend with in any finish considering his very, very rapid kick. You don't win the points jersey at Vuelta without carrying a world class sprint.



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