The now traditional stage to Geraardsbergen saw the peloton tackle a total of 18 punchy climbs, and as a result, it was no surprise to see those riders able to best-handle the iconic Flemish Classics terrain racing for the day’s honors.
Van Avermaet, who also finished second on this stage last year, showed his impressive strength on this style of course in the closing 20 kilometers of the day, powering away as part of a trio of riders that went on to fight for victory.
Due to the fast start, which did see small gaps open up on momentarily on the first cobbled sector, it took over 100 kilometers, of the 177.9-kilometer course, for a 15-rider breakaway, including CCC Team’s Gijs Van Hoecke, to form but, unsurprisingly, the leaders were kept on a short leash.
At the start of the first ascent of the brutal Muur van Geraardsbergen, which at it’s steepest point has a gradient of 18 percent, the gap was less than 30 seconds and with an additional four climbs on each of the three laps of a 25.6km circuit, there was plenty of other opportunities for riders to launch attacks behind.
Van Avermaet and the rest of CCC Team were all sat in the reduced main bunch behind Van Hoecke before another increase in pace saw him drop back to his teammates after the breakaway split at the start of the second lap.
As the speed continued to rise, the attacks continued with Łukasz Wiśniowski covering one potentially dangerous move before, approaching the bell lap, just 15 seconds remained between the leaders at the rest of the field.
The race was all back together at the top of the final climb of the Muur and, after riding aggressively, Van Avermaet continued to dip deep to help the leading trio reach the bottom of the final steep kick up to the line with enough of an advantage ensure they raced for the win.
After a hard-fought finale, which saw Van Avermaet leave everything out on the road to sprint to second, the Belgian rider jumped up to fourth overall on the General Classification, 37 seconds behind Laurens De Plus (Team Jumbo Visma), to secure his sixth consecutive top ten overall finish at Binck Bank Tour.
Quotes From the Finish Line:
Greg Van Avermaet:
“I think it was quite perfect to go away like that and I was happy to be there. I think it was a great move for the stage win and the GC. It’s too bad I ended up with nothing because I didn’t get the stage win and I didn’t get on the podium for the GC. I was feeling really strong and thinking I could win the stage. I think maybe I went a bit too early in the sprint but it’s easy to say afterward. I’m quite happy with my legs and how it went. It’s always a big pity to be second, especially today because I’ve been chasing a win already now for a few months. It’s always sad, but I was happy to have the legs and be up there with the best to do a good race.”
“I’m always happy to have good legs at this point in the season because it depends on how you come out of the Tour de France. I was second in San Sebastian and second here today, and fourth in GC, which means I’m in really good shape. Of course, winning is the most important but if it’s not there you have to take confidence out of a few good top ten places.”
Binck Bank Tour
Stage 7: Sint-Pieters-Leeuw > Geraardsbergen (177.9k)
Top 3: 1. Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) 2. Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) 3. Laurens De Plus (Team Jumbo – Visma)
CCC Team Top 3: 2. Greg Van Avermaet
Top 3 on GC: 1. Laurens De Plus (Team Jumbo – Visma) 2. Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) 3. Tim Wellens (Lotto – Soudal)
CCC Team Top 3 on GC: 4. Greg Van Avermaet
📷 Cor Vos