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Greg Van Avermaet, an ever-present rider of the Tour de France since 2014, will not be lining up at this year’s French Grand Tour having not been selected by his Ag2r Citröen squad.
The 37-year-old veteran and winner of two Tour stages had expected to be on the start line in Copenhagen in a week’s time.
“It was surprising to me. I always thought I was going to be there,” he told the media after the squad announcement was made public. “It was a huge disappointment when I heard on Wednesday that I was not there. There had been no sign that they weren’t going to get me.”
“It’s no fun when you’re told you’re not in the top eight for the Tour. I understand that I am not in the first two or three names these days, but I expected to be there because of my history in the Tour. Especially with the first week approaching, it is a pity not to be there.”
While understanding that he is in the twilight of his career, the Belgian believes he could have provided crucial support to teammate Ben O’Connor, who is aiming for a high finish in the general classification.
“It’s no secret that he’s our captain,” Van Avermaet said of O’Connor. “I also think he has the ability to achieve a very nice final classification and could even be the revelation of the upcoming Tour. In the first ten days, I could have assisted him very well with the capacities I have. That I would not keep up on the last final climbs, I was almost never able to do that. It’s just hard to accept when you haven’t been up for debate for ten years and now you’re not one of the top eight riders.”
Ultimately, Van Avermaet believes a poor two days of climbing at the recent Critérium du Dauphiné, as well as struggling uphill at last year’s Tour, cost him his place.
“I don’t think it’s my job to survive the big cols in the mountains either. Last year there was a moment where I just ran out of time but then the circumstances were completely different,” Van Avermaet explained. “In the past, I have proved that I can climb well enough to finish the Tour de France. I don’t see the problem there. But the team has a different opinion on that. I just don’t understand that, because I think I could leave my mark with this route.”
“The last two stages in the Dauphiné have killed me a bit,” he continued. “I didn’t climb well there and was always in the last group. With Vincent Lavenu [the team boss] that has put the light on red to take someone else with him who climbs better. But the Dauphiné is not the Tour, I always say. In the past, I have never had good mountain stages in the Dauphiné, but three weeks later I was there in the Tour. Except for last year’s, and I think that stuck with Vincent too.”
Where does Van Avermaet go from here? He doesn’t know. But with Covid cases re-emerging once more and the Belgian the team’s first reserve, he could still end up on the start line.
“I am first reserve and given the new [Covid] situation, you always have to keep yourself ready until the start next Friday. There is always a chance that I will still go. And I haven’t [thought about an alternate] program yet, because the disappointment is too great. I was already at the Tour in my head. I hadn’t really considered anything other than that. I’ll need another two, three days to flush out the disappointment.“