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Editor’s note: To close out 2017, we named our 30th annual VeloNews awards in the November/December issue of VeloNews magazine.
Classics rider of the year: Greg Van Avermaet
On February 1, Greg Van Avermaet began his 2017 season at the humble Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana. His BMC Racing team won the team time trial that day, setting the tone for the rest of Van Avermaet’s spring.
Three months later, the Belgian concluded one of the most dominant classics performances in recent memory. His four wins included his first monument, Paris-Roubaix, as well as Gent-Wevelgem, E3 Harelbeke, and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. He added two second-place finishes at the Tour of Flanders and Strade Bianche.
“It was an amazing spring. Hard to beat, really, in the coming years,” Van Avermaet says. “Everything went perfect — and I had the right luck, which you also need in these kinds of races. Hopefully next year I can just add Flanders to the palmarès.”
He didn’t stop after the cobbled classics, either. He took his stellar form into the climber-friendly Ardennes, where he finished a respectable 12th at Amstel Gold Race and 11th at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The results speak volumes about Van Avermaet’s versatility and his combination of power, endurance, and knack for getting over punchy climbs.
Van Avermaet’s first monument victory was only slightly overshadowed by the circumstances of this year’s Paris-Roubaix: nostalgic cycling fans, especially Belgians, hoped to see Tom Boonen end his career on an extremely high note. It didn’t happen, and Van Avermaet, who outsprinted Boonen’s teammate Zdenek Stybar and Cannondale-Drapac’s Sebastian Langeveld on the Roubaix velodrome, put a punctuation mark on an emphatic spring campaign — the new king of the cobbles.
“It’s nice to be on the list of Paris-Roubaix, for sure,” Van Avermaet says.
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“I have been chasing after a monument for a while now. It finally came; almost everything came in one spring. It’s something to remember, even after 50 years when I look back and see my name on the list of Roubaix winners.”
Not to be forgotten, Philippe Gilbert also had an incredible spring. (Many would say that was a given, considering he was in need of a new contract.)
This year, Gilbert diversified his palmarès, stepping outside his traditional Ardennes wheelhouse to snag the cobbled Tour of Flanders. He grabbed his fourth Amstel Gold Race, as well as the overall victory at the Driedaagse De Panne.