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Belgian Van Avermaet inches closer to major classic win

BMC Racing is hoping its patient bet on Greg Van Avermaet will pay off with a major classic victory in the coming weeks.

Hot off his success at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Tirreno-Adriatico, Van Avermaet is enjoying the best spring of his career. Ahead of Wednesday’s race at Dwars door Vlaanderen, BMC manager Jim Ochowicz said the team is satisfied to see Van Avermaet hitting his stride.

“It was important for the team to get that Belgian monkey off our back, because it’s hard to win races up there,” Ochowicz told VeloNews. “And it was big for Greg because it showed that he can win. People like to say he can’t win, but he’s been proving them wrong a lot lately. And he had to beat some good guys to get those wins.”

BMC signed Van Avermaet in 2011, and he’s been knocking on the door of a major classic victory the past two seasons. In 2014, he was arguably the strongest rider at Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), attacking early and finishing second. Last year, he was third at both Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Last Saturday, he was fifth at Milano-Sanremo.

Cycling continued Wednesday despite Tuesday’s brazen terrorists attacks. Van Avermaet will lead BMC in a trio of one-day races that kicks off the northern classics, starting with Wednesday’s Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday and continuing with Friday’s E3 Harelbeke and Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem.

“It’s nice to already have a win on Belgian soil this season,” Van Avermaet said in a team release. “No matter where you line up, you’re racing to win, but racing in Belgium motivates me even more. My legs are really good at the moment and the guys have been doing an incredible job to support me so I’m feeling confident.”

BMC sport director Fabio Baldato said the team is motivated to win.

“We’re well and truly into the season now, so it’s no longer about getting race days in the legs,” Baldato said. “The hard work is paying off and as we’ve seen, Greg and the other riders are in great shape. I think we can see some nice results this week.”

Highly touted Swiss rider Stefan Küng will make his 2016 debut at Dwars door Vlaanderen after recovering from Epstein-Barr virus (mononucleosis) that delayed his debut.

Taylor Phinney is also slated to start Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday in what will be his first start in a cobblestoned classic since 2014. He is also slated to race at Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix next month.