What's Cool In Road Cycling

BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet Talks Strade Bianche

One of the strong men of Saturday’s Strade Bianche was Belgium and BMC rider, Greg Van Avermaet, winner of last year’s Paris-Tours. On Monday, with the dust washed away, he took time to explain to PEZ readers about his Saturday on the ‘white roads’ of Tuscany, a ride that saw him attack on numerous occasions, netted him a spot in the group behind Cancellara, and fifth place in Siena.

PEZ: Did BMC do a ‘course reconnaissance’ before race day, Greg?
Greg Van Avermaet: Yes, we did one on Friday – we rode the last 35 K in to the finish, which included the final two sectors of strade bianche.

PEZ: What was the BMC race strategy?
GVA: We had a good team with me, Cadel (Evans), Alessandro (Ballan) and Phil (Gilbert).

We were all motivated for the race and one of the strongest teams at the start.

Me, Alessandro, and Phil were the protected riders.

In the beginning we had to go in the break with Pinotti; and then in the end we played the card with me and Alessandro.

PEZ: Can you tell us about the bike you rode.
GVA: I chose to ride my usual BMC SLR because I like to ride all my races on the same bike.

For the tyres we had a choice of 25mm or 27mm – I rode 25mm, that’s what I always ride in Belgium if there are cobble stones.

For me they’re the best, they give you more grip – especially in the corners.

For pressure, we ride a little bit less, like in Flanders or Roubaix – again to give you grip.

For the gears I rode my normal ratios but there are some steep climbs and some guys were on 27s.

But for me, I have enough power so I used 25.

Van Avermaet safely navigates one of the many tough turns on the white roads of Tuscany.

PEZ: Why do you think the race has become so popular, so quickly?
GVA: It’s on atypical roads – you’ll never find another race like that over the whole season.

It’s how you imagine a Classic would be from 50 or 60 years ago – I could imagine my grandfather maybe racing on these roads.

It’s the only place in Europe like this and it’s always inspiring for the riders.

PEZ: What are the characteristics of a good Strade Bianche rider?
GVA: He has to be a Classics rider and he has to be good technically on the bike.

He has to like steep climbs and tricky roads – a guy who likes Flanders and Roubaix will also like the Strade Bianche.

These are the type of riders who will come to the front at the end.

Van Avermaet was anything but timid on the roads to Siena this weekend.

PEZ: They say that the dust is easier to ride if it’s wet?
GVA: Yeah, I think so – they’ve gone a long time without rain in this part of Italy I’ve been told and there are lots of stones on the parcours.

There were a lot of punctures because of that and it makes it difficult to judge how fast you can corner.

I wouldn’t like to ride it in the wet – but maybe the day after it rained, I could see that it would maybe be better.

But I still prefer to ride it in the dry!

PEZ: Gatto and Bennati are sprinters but were good – was that a surprise?
GVA: They’re both in good shape; you can’t make the final in the race if you’re not in good shape.

They’re both sprinters, pretty fast but they’re Classics riders too – they can do a good sprint at the end of a hard race.

Philippe Gilbert was more or less a non-factor at the Strade Bianche, so the door was wide open for Ballan and Van Avermaet to play their own cards.

PEZ: Looking back, do think you maybe did too much, too soon?
GVA: You can always say that after a race where you don’t win.

You always can see that you did something wrong – but I’m happy with my race.

We decided that it was for Alessandro at the end – and it’s always the way I race.

PEZ: It wasn’t good timing for you when Cancellara passed you.
GVA: It was for me maybe the hardest part in the race for me; I had a little gap and knew that the strong guys would come across.

The moment he passed me was very hard but I thought that we’d make it back up to him.

Alessandro Ballan.

PEZ: Did Ballan going off course make a difference to the final outcome?
GVA: Maybe a little, we couldn’t ride 100% anymore and had to wait a bit until he came back before we could give it everything.

But Cancellara was very strong – it was never going to be easy to catch him.

PEZ: How do you recover from a race like that?
GVA: It’s more like recovering from a Classic, so I always take two days – it’s a hard race.

Last year when I was in the break it was the highest average power for me for any race during the entire year.

It’s a race that’s hard on your body.

After great rides in Siena and the previous weekend at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne (above), Van Avermaet can undoubtedly look back at the initial phase of his season with satisfaction.

And for next year, Greg and BMC Chief Communications Officer, Georges Luchinger have already done the math. Greg improved four places in 2012 from 2011 – if he does the same next year, he wins!

With thanks to Greg, Georges and Sean Weide for their cooperation with this interview.

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