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He’s often been the runner-up in major events but now, after showing excellent form in finishing second on stage two of the Tour de France, Greg Van Avermaet is hoping he is on the threshold of something very big.
The Belgian BMC Racing Team rider led the chasing group into Sheffield on Sunday, this 20 man bunch crossing the line two seconds behind the stage winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
The result elevated him to third overall in the general classification, again just two seconds behind Nibali. Speaking at the start of stage three in Cambridge, he was clear about his goal: taking the Maillot Jaune.
“It would mean a lot. If I had won the stage yesterday or taken yellow, it would be a big difference for me,” he told CyclingTips. “I am chasing a little bit this big victory – I am always having good results. I was a few times second in big races. I feel now it is the time that I should win one of these races. Maybe it is this week already.”
Van Avermaet has performed at a high level for several seasons but has become known for near misses as much as solid results. Those close calls include second overall in the Tour of Belgium, runner-up in the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec, the Grand Prix de Wallonie, Gran Piemonte, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the Tour of Flanders, as well as third in the Tour of Qatar, the Clasica San Sebastian, Gent Wevelgem and the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen. He was also fourth in last year’s Paris-Roubaix.
He’s clearly a rider with a lot of quality, but also one who could be even more successful if things click for him in terms of luck and tactics.
Sitting so close to the lead in the Tour de France presents him with the perfect opportunity; Van Aveermaet said he’d consider trying something on stage three, but that stage five might present greater opportunity.
“Today is not so important for me. Maybe I will try the sprint, but it has been a while since I was sprinting in a flat stage. I will see how it goes,” he said. “I am going to try to do a good result, but I just want to keep my place in GC.
“I am looking forward to the stage of Wednesday. That is more important to me. We will see how I am in GC after the stage.”
His past performances in the Classics do point towards what could be a strong ride on the cobbles, although he is aware that another strong rider eyeing yellow is close by.
“The only problem is Sagan,” he explained. “I will try to do my best there and see how it goes. So many things can happen on the cobbles.
“It will be a crazy stage again, I think. I hope it stays dry because if it is wet, it is going to be a bit crazy. Cobbles are always difficult and the GC guys are not doing this every day. So I hope to have a bit of an advantage on them.”
What’s clear is that his form is very good. Stage two was a very difficult day in the saddle and with only 21 riders being in contention for the win at the end, it was necessary to have very good legs to be in the hunt. He recognises that it points towards him being in top shape.
“If you see the guys who stayed there, they were only GC guys,” he noted. “I was the only Classic guy up there. So I was pretty happy about my form. I really peaked for the first week of the Tour, but it is always hard to say how you are. I was really happy with how things went yesterday.”