A dominant Greg Van Avermaet proved that he is most at home on the cobbles with a strong performance at E3 BinckBank Classic to sprint to third place, in what was his third consecutive podium result at the race.
Van Avermaet rode a near-perfect race, initiating the decisive split in the peloton on the Paterberg with 40 kilometers remaining in pursuit of the breakaway.
Earlier in the race, it took around 40 kilometers for an eight-rider breakaway to form but the peloton didn’t allow them to go more than five minutes down the road.
The pace in the bunch picked up with 80 kilometers of the 204-kilometer race remaining, at which point Michael Schär dug deep to set a blistering pace at the front of the group and stretch the peloton into single file.
Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-QuickStep) attacked with around 60 kilometers to go and joined the leading group which was just 30 seconds in front of the peloton.
Jungels’ move split the breakaway, with only three riders able to follow, while behind, Van Avermaet gritted his teeth and stretched his legs on the Paterberg, immediately causing a split in the group and forming a small group with the majority of the pre-race favorites.
Van Avermaet’s group was just eight-riders strong with 30 kilometers to go but lack of cooperation allowed Jungels, who was now solo in front, to hold a 40-second advantage.
Van Avermaet made another move inside the final 20 kilometers, on the Tiegemberg, and went clear with Zdenek Stybar (Deceuninck-QuickSteo), Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First), and Wout Van Avert (Jumbo-Visma).
With Van Avermaet, Bettiol, and Van Aert pulling, the quartet caught Jungels with seven kilometers remaining, and despite multiple attacks from Stybar and Jungels, the quintet entered the final kilometer together, all but ensuring the race would come down to a bunch sprint.
Van Avermaet launched his sprint with 200 meters to go but Stybar was able to come around inside the final hundred meters to take the win, while Van Aert crossed the line in second place in front of Van Avermaet.
Van Avermaet’s podium result marks his second podium of the season on home soil, after sprinting to second place at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
Quotes from the Finish Line
Greg Van Avermaet:
“I did everything I could to position myself for the finale and although, of course, I wanted to win, it is also good to be only the podium again. I know that the Tour of Flanders is the race that suits me the most so, I can take confidence knowing that I am good at the moment and hopefully, the best is yet to come.”
“Michi Schär did a great job pulling and setting a really fast pace to stretch the peloton out, and Nathan and Kamil were also there to position me well. I was feeling good all day and once Michi pulled off, I knew it was a good moment to try and split the bunch. There were too many guys still there and if we wanted to bring Jungels back, we needed a smaller group. Once that front selection was made, we were only turning with three riders and the group behind was coming back, so I knew I had to make another move. There were guys just sitting on so when I attacked and we were just four chasing Jungels, it was perfect.”
”It was always going to be hard to beat Stybar. He was the freshest and had the legs in the sprint. Already when he attacked in the finale, it was hard to bring him back. I don’t think I can have any regrets after my performance today.”
Fabio Baldato, Sports Director:
“I am happy with Greg’s performance today. I don’t think he could have done anything differently. He did everything possible and he was super strong. In the end, the rider who was the freshest won the race. Greg showed once again that he is in great shape and is at home on the cobbles. When Greg attacked on the Pateberg, you could see that the effort immediately put a lot of riders in difficulty, and this was the moment that the selection was made. He took a lot of the responsibility to bring Jungels back and then it was good to see that the group finally started to cooperate and they could bring him back. In the end, Greg did a good sprint but Stybar had the fresh legs to overtake him. We will keep chipping away and hope that the work pays off for Greg and the team.”
E3 BinckBank Classic
Harelbeke > Harelbeke (204km)
Top 3: 1. Zdenek Stybar (Deceuninck-QuickStep), 2. Wout Van Aert (Jumbo Visma), 3. Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team)
CCC Team: 3. Greg Van Avermaet, 52. Łukasz Wiśniowski, 55. Nathan Van Hooydonck
Photos courtesy of Chris Auld.