Van Avermaet has found himself in the top ten on three occasions but has never cracked the podium at the World Championships, a statistic somewhat surprising when you look at the Olympic champion’s palmarès. Is Yorkshire 2019 his year? We sat down with Van Avermaet on the eve of the road race to hear what he had to say ahead of Sunday’ road race.
From Leeds to Harrogate
“The first part of the race before the circuit is quite nice. It’s a really hard first part of the race with longer climbs but still technical descents, and smaller roads so I think it can really be part of the race. We have to be careful not to lose the race there. With the weather they expect and the wind, it will be important to ride in the front and not make any mistakes in the first 180 kilometers.
I think the bigger teams will control the breakaway and it will only be smaller teams out there at the front. Hopefully, the group is not too big so we’re not losing the race there either. But, I don’t think it’s going to be such a big fight with such a long race ahead. 280 kilometers, plus the neutral, means it’s a long day for the breakaway.
The biggest factor of the Harrogate circuit will be the rain. The course will already be hard in dry conditions but if it’s raining, I think it makes a big difference and will be even harder, more technical, and more dangerous. The weather can dictate the result.”
Swapping CCC orange for Belgian blue
“It’s quite strange at the Worlds riding with the national teams because on Sunday, you’re on the same team, but normally you’re opponents. It’s also quite a strange feeling to race against your normal teammates. The Belgian team is well prepared and we have a strong team with two leaders, but also some strong guys underneath us and we’re ready to race in these kinds of conditions. I think having so many options can help me too as I will have less pressure just on myself, so this can help me to have a better result.”
Chasing the rainbow
“A World Championship would mean a lot to me. I was not that close to the win many times which is a bit strange because I’ve been on the podium of most one-day Classics-style races, but it’s never really worked out for me at the Worlds. You also have to look at the parcours and this year, it’s finally a good parcours for me again. I think I have a big chance. As a Classics one-day rider, it’s the highest achievement you can have in the season, apart from the Monuments. The nicest thing about winning the World Championships is you wear the jersey for the whole year. That’s what makes it even more special than the other races, I think.
You can’t compare the World Championships with the Olympics. For me, the Olympics will always be a special race in my career as it finally launched me to the level I wanted to be at. To wear the rainbow jersey would be really incredible, but my gold medal from Rio will always be more special. I would like to have both!”
Coming in on a high
“I’m the kind of rider who if I start winning, the wins come easier to me. So, winning GP Cycliste de Montreal was a big confidence boost. I’m not the kind of guy who wins a lot of races in the year. I’m really consistent but winning is not my strongest point so having that nice win from Montreal in my mind can definitely help me in the race on Sunday. It gives me a confidence boost knowing my form is exactly where it needs to be.
I don’t think this will be my last chance to win a World Championship. This is probably my best chance with the combination of the parcours, my current shape, my age, and the experience I have. But, I think Leuven in 2021 could still be a chance for me.”