Greg van Avermaet attacks.
Think hard for a second. You’re sitting on your couch, watching a bike race through a pirated-feed while your Significant Other watches Gilmore Girls on the TV. Your mind wanders. You start worrying a little about Lorelei, although you know she does it to herself. And a broken heart is a broken…”And there goes van Avermaet!” The attackers are our saviors. Your attention is back on real stuff that matters, not junk like television or the human condition. Attacks make this sport, and we need every single rider who makes them. There are a few, and we owe them the future of the whole sport. Alberto Contador attacks, with an asterisk. Fabian Cancellara attacks, and whines a bit if it doesn’t work. Thomas Voeckler attacks, making Thomas Voeckler faces all the while, but goddamn it he’s out there doing it.
GvA enters this weekend’s double-header as the guy who could. A series of podiums, some crashes, and brilliant moves reeled back in 2014 left him on everyone’s lips as a perpetual contender, but a contender with little to show for all his screen time. If you are really watching, though, GvA is more aggressive and more intelligent than the BIG NAMES, Fabs and Tom Boonen, and rides without the benefit of a deep team like Ettix-QuickStep or Trek.
In fact, the inclusion of Phillipe Gilbert might even serve as a distraction, especially if the Belgians aren’t on the same page, as happens too often in the early spring events like Omloop and it’s weekend partner, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. It’s easier to talk about cohesion than to live it, especially when it’s a former World Champion on one end of the hypothetical dial-up internet connection.
Van Avermaet is not the fastest guy, the best rider, the best Cobbles rider. But he’s the gutsiest and the rider with the most to prove this weekend, and for the rest of this Classics season. If anyone deserves to kick off 2015 with a win, it’s him.