Greg Van Avermaet has been working away slowly at his career since he turned Pro in 2006. In that time he has built up a steady palmarés with placings in the biggest of the Classics. During his time with BMC he has probably been the team’s most consistent high finisher. But apart from his win in the 2011 Paris-Tours, the big wins have eluded him, could 2014 be his year?
PEZ: How was your winter and how do you feel at the moment?
Greg Van Avermaet: Winter was perfect, I think, no problems at all. Other winters I always have some foot problems, this winter was almost perfect. I just took one week off before the first camp, my foot was better and after it was like normal and I could ride normal shoes and I was training well and I was not sick, that was the most important. I did a lot of training and I was a lot of time here in Spain. That’s like it is in winter, so I’m happy with my condition and I’m happy with my form and everything went well, so I think I’m ready to start racing.
Greg ready to talk.
PEZ: What are you main goals for the season?
Greg : The main goals are the Classics, starting with Sanremo and ending in Amstel, I think this is the most important period for me. But like every year I’m starting in Qatar/Oman. From then on from the first days in Belgium, I want to win a race, but it’s really difficult because its only the big races I do, if you can win a race between Het Nieuwsblad and Amstel, then Spring will have been good, so that’s the main goal. Like every year I was always close to the win, I want to improve and take a big victory home.
PEZ: Without Philippe Gilbert in the Flemish Classics will you have a different role in the team?
Greg : The last year I was also riding as a leader in those races, so this year there will be a little bit more pressure on me, but I think I can do it and I proved already that I am ready to do some good results in these races. So yes I am happy that I’m leader there and I can take my own chances 100%.
PEZ: Is this an important step in your career?
Greg : I think last year was important to me because I made a step forward to be there in the most important races and also to make the important moves myself. I felt stronger and I can decide the races where I was not able to in the years before. So that gives confidence to a rider like me; 4th in Roubaix and 7th in Flanders, so I was close there also. Now is just the time, I’m 28 now and I’m strong and I’m getting stronger every year.
PEZ: It must give you a good feeling to be the sole leader in your Classics?
Greg : It was hard because we have a lot leaders in this team and a lot of guys who have proved that they should be there. For me it was always like taking little steps and coming to the position that I’m in now and try to be a leader and try to finish it off in one of the Classics races that we are waiting for in the BMC team
PEZ: Do you think that if you had moved to another team last year or the year before you would have had more opportunities?
Greg : Maybe, but then you have to go to a smaller team and then you have to make the choice between this and being in a top team and being surrounded by people who know a lot about cycling, so I don’t think this is the moment to change. Sometimes you have to try to make it the hardest way and I thought it was still possible to have this position in the team. So it’s good.
Greg wins Paris-Tours 2011.
PEZ: Has Valerio Piva coming to the team made a difference?
Greg : For me it was important, because it’s always important if you can say something in your own language, sometimes it’s hard to explain in English. But I like to talk in my own language, like I could do with Rik Verbruggen the year before, but last year there was no one I could go to and tell my own story. I think with Valerio there is somebody in my own country and it’s easier to call him, for me, than to say something in English. For me that is a big step forward and he has a lot of experience in the Belgian races. For sure he’s a good guy to have in the team.
PEZ: What is your opinion on the other changes in the team?
Greg : Since I came to BMC I think every year has been a step forward and now we are really going for the results. Before maybe the roles were not clear enough and now everybody really knows their jobs and I think it’s a step forward to have guys like Peiper and Piva around to support us.
PEZ: Has Allan Peiper made changes?
Greg : It’s not only Allan I think. Allan has put some new trainers on and some different ways of looking at the races, so that we go more for wining and not to just be there and try to do some good results. So I think everybody is going more specific and going to try to do the best they can. I think if you see the names on the team and the results from last year, it was just not good enough, we were always there, but I don’t think we were 100% successful. Maybe with this new kind of tactic we are going to be better
PEZ: Has the training changed?
Greg : I think so yeah. We have a new trainer, for me it was more specific and harder and it was a totally different style of training that we did this year, I hope we have pay back because it was hard. But it’s good also to do something else, every year you do something else but this was a big change.
BMC finding the winning way.
PEZ: Can you talk about the specific training?
Greg : Its just specific work, we do some exercises on the climbs, it’s hard to say, you have to talk to the trainers. It was good to do it and I like to come on training camp and do something else and I hope its working.
PEZ: Do you use a power trainer?
Greg : Yes I was working with it already a lot.
PEZ: Does it rule what you do?
Greg : Yea, I’ve always been into training so I use it a lot at home also, I was working with it already, but now we are working more with clear lines and we just do what it tells us.
PEZ: So you live by the numbers?
Greg : You can see that I’m not really living by the numbers, but it’s good to have some numbers to see how good you are. In the end it’s the feelings that count also, but it’s good to see how good you are and how you are performing.
PEZ: You had a good result in Liége-Bastogne-Liége (7th in 2011), so is it hard for you to concentrate on the Flemish Classics?
Greg : It’s hard for me because I want to ride everywhere. Last year I did Paris-Roubaix for the first time after 3 years, so I was a bit surprised with the fourth place, in the end you have to make your choice between the Classics. Fourth in Roubaix was a bit unexpected, if you go to Flanders and then keep it (fitness) to Liége it’s so hard and you have to train between Flanders and Liége a little bit more on climbing and then the problem is you lose a little bit of shape or freshness. This year I was feeling really good in Flanders, so for me it was more important to just keep this condition for an extra week longer and then it’s easier also for training.
PEZ: Is the Cobbled stage of the Tour de France a goal for you this season?
Greg : I don’t know if I will go to the Tour de France this year. I hope to go, but it’s always a difficult situation because we are always going for the GC and we have a lot of riders who want to go to the Tour and for me the most important point is always the Classics, then after I look at the rest of the year. I cannot say anything about it; it’s hard to discuss it as I cannot say I will go to the Tour as it is up to the team directors to decide.
PEZ: Which is race is more important to you; Flanders or Roubaix?
Greg : Yeah, for sure it’s Flanders.
PEZ: Have you looked at the course of the World championships?
Greg : I was looking at it on internet. I think it’s a good course for me, it’s not too hard, but hard enough to drop the sprinters. I think the World’s is always a goal for me; this year will be the same because the parcours is perfect. I hope to be there in good shape and we just have to see what preparation I will do for the Worlds as it’s not decided yet.
Greg Van Avermaet: World champion?
PEZ: Would you hope to ride the Vuelta a España as build up for the Worlds?
Greg : Yeah, the Vuelta course is pretty nice this year, it’s not too hard, but there are a lot of chances for me also. We will have to see how it goes, but like I say Classics are the first goal and then after this I will look at the rest of the year.
PEZ: Do you expect to be competitive at the Het Nieuwsblad?
Greg : Yes I think I will be good in the Het Nieuwsblad, my training has been so good and I am so motivated for this race, if the weather is good. Last year was OK but cold, if it’s really cold and raining I don’t like it too much, but if it’s OK, for sure I’ll be there already in good form. I think you have to be directly there at the start of the season, if you are too far behind at Oman or Qatar, it’s too hard to be there at the right moment. You just have to be in good shape and in good health and then for sure it’s going to be good. The last 5 or 10% you always catch with riding, but you have to be at a good level already.
PEZ: Is it important to ride well in the first races?
Greg: Yeah it’s always important in the first races, it’s important for the team and it’s also important for yourself. If you are good in the first races you have extra confidence. Like I said I’m the type of rider who if I can win one of the first races in Belgium it would be really important for me and would be a big step for a good year. For me, first of all, to win this kind of race will give me motivation for the ProTour races.
PEZ: You said to the Dutch speaking journalists that you would be sharing the team leader’s position with Taylor Phinney and Thor Hushovd at Roubaix?
Greg : Like I said in Dutch; it’s important that the team management see who’s in form there in Flanders the week before, then you can see who’s going to be the one of the strongest guys in the group and the race will see who’s more protected than the others. There are a few guys who can do a good Roubaix, I think, and the conditions will make the biggest choice.
PEZ: So the decision might be made on the road?
Greg : Yip.
Greg on his way to Roubaix.
PEZ: What is your early season calendar?
Greg : Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Strade Bianchi, Tirreno, Milan-Sanremo, Wevelgem, Ronde, Paris-Roubaix, Brabantse Pijl and Amstel.
PEZ: You received the ‘Flandrien of the Year’ award in the winter, do you receive more respect in the team because of it?
Greg : No, I think that respect was always there and they knew already what I can do, also that I was a rider that is on a good level so I’m never really bad. It’s always nice to have this prize for sure, but these prizes you earn on the road. If you have a good year you can be selected for these awards, but I don’t think it’s changed anything in the team. I think it’s more important that I was good in all the Classics and I was good in Quebec/Montreal, after I had just come back in Plouay, so I think these are races that compliment me, I was always there and this showed the confidence that the team had in me.
Greg is a confident guy and has a strong team behind him, maybe this will be his year and he will be the first over the line in Flanders or Roubaix. Van Avermaet for the Flemish Classics and Philippe Gilbert of Ardennes, but who is the man for the Worlds?
Greg Van Avermaet – Flandrien of the Year.