BMC Racing Team's Greg Van Avermaet enjoyed a career-best third-place finish at Paris-Roubaix Sunday while earning back-to-back podium placings in cycling's two cobblestone classic monument races.
Van Avermaet was part of a group of seven sprinting it out in the Roubaix velodrome at the end of the 253.5-kilometer race. Also third last week at Ronde van Vlaanderen, Van Avermaet was not able to follow a surge by race winner John Degenkolb (Team Giant-Alpecin) coming out of the last turn. Czech Republic national road champion Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quick Step) held off Van Avermaet's late charge to take runner-up honors.
"You always want to win the race, but I knew it would be pretty hard against Degenkolb," Van Avermaet said. "He is strong in these kinds of races and he was pretty strong when he came to us. He did a few good pulls and I was a little bit empty at the end. It was hard to come to the finish. I felt a little bit of energy going away in the last five kilometers and had to put out the maximum to get on the podium.
With only two of 27 cobblestones sectors and 12 kilometers to go, Van Avermaet and his BMC granfondo GFX followed an attack by Yves Lampaert (Etixx-Quick Step) and the pair quickly gained 20 seconds. But coming out of the penultimate cobblestone sector, Degenkolb had bridged the gap. The trio was then joined by four others as they exited the final section of pavé within sight of the velodrome.
"I never really had a great feeling today," Van Avemaet said. "Last week, I was feeling good at Flanders. Today, I had to fight against myself on the cobbles. I think I did a good attack with Yves Lampaert in the end. But we could not hold off Degenkolb and Stybar and the others. In the end it was hard to beat them in the sprint."
Van Avermaet's finish bettered his fourth-place result at this race in 2013. It was his fifth third-place finish of the season to go along with a runner-up result at Strade Bianche and a victory in March on Stage 3 of Tirreno-Adriatico.
Manuel Quinziato was the BMC Racing Team's next best finisher in 34th, 2:55 back. Daniel Oss, who was eighth at Gent-Wevelgem, 10th at E3 Harelbeke and 11th last week at Ronde van Vlaanderen, took a tumble into a ditch with about 53 kilometers to go. He was able to continue and finished 67th.
"Quinziato was doing a great job of protecting the team by following several attacks," BMC Racing Team Sport Director Valeria Piva said. "We had a bit of bad luck with Oss because he was also strong and we planned to have him in the final. But Roubaix is a race like this. We can be happy for the podium. Greg was obviously in top shape, so it is too bad he was not able to win one of the monuments."
- Written by Jamie Naragon