Van Avermaet wants cobblestone redemption after Sanremo frustration

Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet is left frustrated and angry by another lost opportunity at Milano-Sanremo and vows to deliver in northern classics.

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GENT, Belgium (VN) — Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) is taking his frustration out on the upcoming cobbled classics on home soil in Belgium.

Van Avermaet had a string of near misses in Italy at Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico, and another “frustrating” day at Milano-Sanremo on Saturday.

“It’s always exciting to get to this point in the season, the final races before Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix,” Van Avermaet said in a press release. “I feel good and am confident in the shape I have after Italy.

“It was frustrating to have a few near misses so I’m going to channel that frustration into these classics and hope to be back on the podium.”

Van Avermaet, from Lokeren, Belgium, is hoping the familiar cobbled roads will treat him better than those in southern Europe. The winner of the 2017 Paris-Roubaix has been firing all spring, but coming up empty-handed in the big races.

Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) beat him to win Strade Bianche (Van Avermaet was sixth) and again did so in stage 2 of Tirreno-Adriatico to Pomarance. In Milano-Sanremo on Saturday, Van Avermaet could only blame himself for losing position ahead of the final Poggio climb. He was so upset with his race, he would not speak afterward.

“It was the second time that Milano-Sanremo ended in a scenario where I could’ve had a chance, and for the second time I was not there,” he told Het Laatste Nieuws a day later.

“I was too far back on the Poggio. Frustrating, especially when you see how many people rode to the finish line.

“At a kilometer and a half from the foot of the Poggio, I was still in the front of Michael Schär’s wheel, but I lost him in the twisting and pushing. I tried to find my own way, but everywhere I went I got blocked.”

Van Avermaet also felt that 2017 was his chance. That year, eventual winner Michal Kwiatkowski rode clear with Peter Sagan and Alaphilippe. In 2019, the Belgian finished in Sanremo in 42nd position.

“There are no excuses for the Poggio. Simple, it’s my fault, isn’t it?” He said. “What could I do? Be a little more attentive or a little more aggressive.”

He said he rode 480 watts and then did nine sprints at 800 watts to try to better his position on the climb to Poggio. He added, “I rode myself to death.”

In the E3 Binckbank Classic and Gent-Wevelgem he will return north to the cobbled roads for the first time since placing second behind Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in early March.

“As a team, we have raced the last two months together and I think we are working well,” he said in a press release Thursday.

“All of the guys have a lot of experience on the cobbles and know the roads so I’m confident that we will race aggressively. The key to success at the classics is a combination of form and luck. I know I have the form so I can’t wait to get back to the start line on home soil.”

The CCC roster for the E3 BinckBank Classic includes Kamil Gradek, Michael Schär, Gijs Van Hoecke, Nathan Van Hooydonck, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, and Lukasz Wisniowski. Van Avermaet relies on their help to reach the final but said he is ultimately responsible for winning or losing.

“As a leader, you must take your own responsibility. I do not blame my team for anything, I blame myself,” he told Het Laatste Nieuws of Milano-Sanremo.

“I could have hit my head through the wall. I was so mad at myself. I am disappointed in myself.”

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