An impressive show of teamwork was on display as soon as the flag dropped with Van Avermaet’s teammates controlling the early breakaway attempts to keep the race together ahead of the first intermediate sprint, where Van Avermaet claimed the maximum three bonus seconds.
A nine-rider group, featuring Matteo Trentin and Gijs Van Hoecke, went clear and contested the second sprint, with Trentin taking second place, before five of the riders counter attacked and formed the day’s breakaway.
Two more riders managed to jump clear of the bunch to join the breakaway while behind, the CCC Team train took control at the front of the bunch and settled in for a long day of work.
After initially rising to over three minutes, the breakaway’s advantage was brought back to the two-minute mark where it stayed thanks to the solid work from Guillaume Van Keirsbulck and Nathan Van Hooydonck.
Van Avermaet returned to the bunch with the help of Gijs Van Hoecke after a bike change with 40 kilometers to go, at which point the breakaway’s advantage was down to 40 seconds approaching the first passage of the finish line.
CCC Team again took control of the chase and made the catch just before the final categorised climb inside ten kilometers to go, from which point Jonas Koch, Josef Černy and Matteo Trentin set Van Avermaet up on the steep ascent, leading him out while behind the peloton was shattered into pieces.
As was the case on stage three, Van Avermaet formed part of a small front group that had a gap at the top of the climb but with a large group forming behind, they were quickly caught and the 30-rider group set off in pursuit of Jhonatan Narvaez (Team Ineos) who attacked solo in the last eight kilometers.
Van Avermaet was positioned perfectly on Démare’s wheel inside the final kilometer when they caught Narvaez and launched his sprint with 200 meters to go but wasn’t able to match the speed of Démare and Philippe Gilbert (Lotto-Soudal), who sprinted to second place.
With another four bonus seconds from his third place, Van Avermaet finished the race second overall on the General Classification, 21 seconds behind Démare.
Quotes from the Finish Line
Greg Van Avermaet:
“I think it was a good stage and the team rode really well. I had great support all day and I hoped to finish it off but, in the end, it didn’t work out. I was a bit unlucky that I had to have a bike change and I spent some energy coming back from that and maybe I missed something in the sprint because of it. However, I did what I could and I think that was the most important. I gave everything and even though I didn’t win, which was the goal, we ended up second on the GC and third on the stage so it is something positive. I am quite happy with this and with the work the team did, we worked well together.”
“I think it was a good choice to race here instead of the Dauphiné for example because I think that was too hard for me before the Tour. Now I have some time to freshen up the legs again before the European Championships and the Tour de France, which will be super hard. Plus there is still a big season after that with some important Classics that I want to be good so it was important to manage the lead up well and I am really happy with the form I have now”
Steve Bauer, Sports Director:
“Overall, the team raced a very good race. Everyone contributed to the collective goal and we positioned Greg Van Avermaet for the chance to win on stage three and four. Greg was strong and we had a good chance to take the overall today but we came against a very strong Arnaud Démare. He was better and when the group came back together after the final climb, it made things harder. The mechanical compromised the strength of Greg a bit but we did everything we could and can be happy with the way we raced. It was very encouraging to see the team ride as a group, with a common goal, and it was also good to see Matteo Trentin back on track after his Milano – Sanremo crash as he is improving every day.”
Tour de Wallonie
Stage 4 Blegny > Erezée (199.4km)
Top 3: 1. Arnaud Démarre (Groupama-FDJ), 2. Philippe Gilbert (Lotto Soudal), 3. Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team)
CCC Team top 3: 3. Greg Van Avermaet, 32. Jonas Koch, 60. Matteo Trentin