After taking his maiden Tour de France stage win in Rodez in 2015, Greg Van Avermaet looked to repeat his success when the race returned to the same finish on stage 14 of the Tour de France.
The Belgian showed his trademark grit and determination in the uphill battle to the line that saw Van Avermaet cross the line in second place behind stage winner Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb).
As soon as the flag dropped in the 181.5km stage, attacks started and eventually five riders formed the day’s breakaway.
BMC Racing Team took control of the race, along with Team Sunweb, and together the two teams kept the breakaway to within two minutes for the majority of the stage.
The gap began to come down in the final 50km and as the peloton started to bring the quintet back, Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) attacked solo from the breakaway.
Behind, BMC Racing Team continued to set a flying pace at the front of the bunch and as the teams vying for the stage win began to chase, De Gendt’s advantage quickly diminished.
The catch was made 12.5km before the finish line, allowing new attacks to come from the bunch. Damiano Caruso was quick to cover any threatening attacks and for a short while, was part of a 4-rider move sitting 10 seconds ahead of the bunch.
Ultimately, the reduced bunch came back together with 3km to go and Van Avermaet sat perfectly positioned in fourth wheel.
Van Avermaet launched his sprint on the steep gradients with 200 meters to go but was passed by Matthews just before the line and had to settle for second place on stage 14.
Quotes from the Finish Line
Greg Van Avermaet:
“The beginning was really easy and then we made the race hard until the climbs. I think we did a really good job to make the race hard which was better for me because then everyone was suffering and I had a little bit more punch in the end. I think we did what we had to do but I got beaten by one guy who was stronger so, in the end, cycling can be simple.”
“With Richie Porte out of the Tour de France, one of the main objectives was a stage win with me. We tried and we were second but there are still some stages to come so I think we can be confident and we can try another time.”
“The finish went how I wanted it to go because there was a lot of wind. I was hoping that I didn’t have to go too early and I think the two Belgian guys, Oliver Naesen and Philippe Gilbert did a good job and I was in a perfect position. Then, I tried to launch my sprint to victory but Matthews was amazingly strong and he deserved the victory today.”
Fabio Baldato, Sports Director:
“We knew before the start that Michael Matthews was a big contender and Team Sunweb also worked with us to keep the bunch together for the sprint. Thanks to our guys for what they did today. Everyone executed their job 100% from the beginning to the end. Really, all seven of the guys and Greg were amazing. Greg tried as hard as he could and was so close to the win. We still have other opportunities and I think with the spirit in this team, we can still do something.”