Apart from winning the Olympic title, other notable achievements include Paris–Roubaix, Gent–Wevelgem and E3 Harelbeke in 2017, the 2016 GP de Montréal and Tirreno–Adriatico, the 2016 and 2017 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, two individual stage wins in the Tour de France, the points classification and a stage win in the Vuelta a España and several podium finishes in one-day classics.
Considered one of the most versatile riders of modern cycling, Van Avermaet is a specialist of the classic cycle races, but has also won stages and the general classification in stage races, particularly when run on a hilly terrain. His strong sprint finish enables him to win sprints of small lead groups, but he has also won races after solo breakaways and has worn the yellow jersey in the 2016 Tour de France.
Greg Van Avermaet was born into a cycling family; both his father and grandfather were professional cyclists. He started bike racing at the age of 19, having previously played football as a goalkeeper for SK Beveren. He is a former brother-in-law of Glenn D'Hollander, also a former professional cyclist. In 2006, at 21, he became Belgian amateur champion on the Bodysol–Win for Life–Jong Vlaanderen team.2007
In 2007 he signed his first professional contract for the Predictor–Lotto UCI ProTeam and won four races in his maiden year. In the Tour of Qatar, his first professional race for his new team, he won stage 5 in the sprint of a breakaway group, followed by a number of good finishes in smaller races. His results earned him a place in the line-up for the Tour of Flanders and Paris–Roubaix – his best result being 29th in Roubaix. A few months later he won a stage in the Tour de Wallonie, as well as the prestigious one-day race Rund um die Hainleite in Germany and the Memorial Rik Van Steenbergen in Belgium. He entered his first world championships, in Stuttgart, finishing 63rd in the road race.2008
Van Avermaet's breakthrough year was 2008. He finished third in E3 Harelbeke after being in a breakaway, and eighth in his second Tour of Flanders. In May, he won the Ardennes stage in the Tour of Belgium, but lost the leader's jersey the next day to Stijn Devolder and finished second overall. Later, he was fourth in the Belgian National Road Race Championships.
In summer he won stages in the Tour de Wallonie and the Tour de l'Ain, as well as seventh place in the GP Ouest-France in Plouay, before making his debut in a grand tour, the Vuelta a España. He made a remarkable debut, with a victory on stage 9 of the race, when he outsprinted ten other breakaway companions in Sabiñánigo, ahead of Davide Rebellin. Following several other top-10 finishes, he also won the Vuelta's final points classification ahead of Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde. One week later, he finished 17th in the World Road Race Championships in Varese. At the end of 2008, he was awarded the Flandrien of the Year award by Belgian journalists.2009
2009 proved to be a difficult year, with one win, the Heistse Pijl, and several near-wins. He made his first appearance in the Tour de France, with fourth and seventh places in the latter stages as best results. He finished the Tour de France in 89th place overall.2010
In 2010 he could not claim a win and did not make the line-up for the Tour de France. He placed 49th in his second Vuelta a España, before competing in the World Championships in Australia. He finished fifth in the road race in Geelong, in a sprint won by Thor Hushovd. At the end of the season he stated he would leave his Omega Pharma–Lotto team.
In 2011 he joined BMC Racing Team. After starting his season in the Tour of Qatar, he ran a remarkable campaign in the spring classics, in which he was one of the most attacking riders. Ninth place in Milan–San Remo and seventh in Liège–Bastogne–Liège were his best results. After the spring classics, he finished second in the Tour of Belgium.
In summer, he claimed his first victories for his new team. He won a stage and the points classification in the Tour of Austria, and he won the overall classification and final stage in the Tour de Wallonie. He entered the Eneco Tour and Vuelta a España in which he gained several top-20 stage results. In October he claimed his first classic victory, after beating Marco Marcato in a two-man sprint in Paris–Tours. He finished the season with a second place in the Giro del Piemonte and twelfth in the Tour of Lombardy.2012
In the spring of 2012 Van Avermaet became a front-runner in the classics with several strong performances. Early in the season he was fifth in both Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Strade Bianche, before focusing on the cobbled classics. He finished fourth in the Tour of Flanders, where he won the sprint at the finish in Oudenaarde 40 seconds behind the leading breakaway.
In summer, he skipped the Tour de France again and came close to winning his first World Tour race in the Grand Prix de Québec. He attacked on the final Côte de la Montagne, but was joined by Simon Gerrans, who beat him in a two-man sprint. He was second again five days later in the Grand Prix de Wallonie, before competing in the World Road Race Championships in Valkenburg, in the Netherlands. He placed 25th in the race, after playing a helping role for his team mate Philippe Gilbert, who won the world title. He ended his season with eighth place in the Giro del Piemonte and sixth in Paris–Tours.2013
In 2013, Van Avermaet garnered several top-10 finishes in the spring classics. He finished fifth in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, sixth in Strade Bianche, third in Gent–Wevelgem, seventh in the Tour of Flanders, fourth in Paris–Roubaix and sixth in Brabantse Pijl, but again failed to claim a single win.
Later in the year, he had a strong summer campaign, starting with two stage wins and the overall classification in the Tour de Wallonie, as well the first stage of the Tour of Utah and several top-5 stage finishes in the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. In the GP Ouest-France he was caught by the peloton at 300 metres (980 feet) from the finish after a late attack. In the Laurentian Classics in Canada, he finished third in the Grand Prix de Québec and fourth in the Grand Prix de Montréal. Back in Europe, he finished 23rd in the World Road Race Championships in Florence and 19th in the Giro di Lombardia. At the end of 2013, with four victories, he won his second Flandrien of the Year award.2014
In 2014, Van Avermaet ran another strong spring campaign but again failed to win a classic race. He finished second in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the Tour of Flanders, losing both races in the sprint, to Ian Stannard and Fabian Cancellara respectively. In the summer, he entered the Tour de France, in which he helped his leader Tejay van Garderen to fifth place in the general classification and finished 38th himself.
Later in the campaign, Van Avermaet took eighth place in the Clásica San Sebastián and fifth overall in the Eneco Tour, as well as one stage win. He finished fifth in the GP de Quebec – his third consecutive top-5 finish in Quebec – and seventh in the GP de Montréal. In September, Van Avermaet won the 1.HC-ranked Grand Prix de Wallonie; he was part of a four-strong breakaway and, with the peloton on their heels, Van Avermaet attacked in the final uphill bends to claim his second win of the season. Three days later, he won the GP Impanis-Van Petegem, earning him the leadership in the Belgian line-up for the World championships in Ponferrada, Spain. He was in the winning breakaway of the road race together with his BMC Racing Team team mate and fellow Belgian Philippe Gilbert, but was unable to answer an ultimate attack from Michał Kwiatkowski and finished fifth. He ended the season with 39th place in Paris–Tours.
At the end of 2014 he earned his third Flandrien of the year award as best Belgian rider of the year.
In 2015, Van Avermaet started his season traditionally in the Middle-Eastern Tour of Qatar and Tour of Oman races, where he placed third on two stages. After another top-ten finish in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, he finished second in Strade Bianche behind Zdeněk Štybar. He claimed his first victory of the season on Stage 3 of Tirreno–Adriatico in an uphill-sprint finish, besting Peter Sagan and Štybar. Coming into the cobbled classics, he crashed hard in E3 Harelbeke, nearly jeopardizing the April classics. In April, Van Avermaet finished third in the Tour of Flanders after a strong performance. He dropped Sagan in the final kilometers of the race while closing in on Alexander Kristoff, the eventual winner, and Niki Terpstra. A week later, he earned another prestigious podium finish in Paris–Roubaix, finishing third in a seven-man sprint behind John Degenkolb and Štybar. He ended his classics campaign with fifth place in the Amstel Gold Race, despite being under investigation for doping, at that time.
In May, in his build-up to the Tour de France, Van Avermaet won both the final stage and the overall classification in the Tour of Belgium. He took part in the Tour de Suisse, finishing sixth on the Prologue and third in stage 4. He entered the Tour de France, in which he helped the BMC Racing Team win the team time trial on Stage 9. On 17 July 2015, he won stage 13, his first individual Tour de France stage win. He outsprinted the green jersey wearer Peter Sagan, and fellow Belgian Jan Bakelants on an uphill finish in Rodez. He withdrew from the race three days later to witness the birth of his first daughter.
Less than two weeks later, on 1 August 2015, Van Avermaet looked on his way to victory in the Clásica de San Sebastián, when he was hit from behind by one of the motorbikes providing television coverage just before the top of the final climb. Suffering a broken bike frame, he was unable to finish and saw Adam Yates win the race. In the aftermath of the incident, his BMC Racing Team claimed the crash had cost him victory and threatened legal action over "millions of dollars in lost publicity". A few days later he entered the Eneco Tour and finished second overall, trailing winner Tim Wellens by a minute.
In his preparation for the world championships he placed fifth in the Vattenfall Cyclassics in Hamburg and entered the Laurentian Classics in Canada. Considered a favourite in the world road race title in Richmond, he attacked on Libby Hill, the final climb of the race, but was overtaken by Peter Sagan and narrowly failed to stay in his wheel. His attempts to catch Sagan failed as his chase companion Edvald Boasson Hagen was not allowed to work in the pursuit and both were caught by the returning peloton in the final kilometer. Van Avermaet finished 23th. His last race of the season was Paris–Tours, where he was in the winning three-man breakaway and the favourite to win the sprint, when he punctured just one kilometer from the line and finished third. At the end of the year, Van Avermaet was awarded both the Crystal Bicycle and Flandrien of the Year awards as best Belgian cyclist of the year, and was second in the Belgian Sportsman of the year poll behind footballer Kevin De Bruyne.
In 2016 he opened the season with numerous top-5 placings in the Tour of Qatar and Tour of Oman. In late February, he won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, after beating Peter Sagan in a five-man sprint in Ghent. He finished sixth in Strade Bianche, before entering Tirreno–Adriatico, where he was on the winning team of the opening team time trial. After the cancellation of Tirreno's queen stage, he won the sixth stage in a sprint with Sagan, and successfully defended his lead in the final time trial, by one second over Sagan – his first overall win in a World Tour stage race. The victory pushed Van Avermaet to the top of the UCI World Ranking for one week. Following Tirreno–Adriatico, he finished fifth in Milan–San Remo but crashed and broke his collarbone in the Tour of Flanders.
After his return from injury in May, he competed in the Tour of California and the Critérium du Dauphiné, before placing third in the Belgian National Road Race Championships behind Philippe Gilbert and Tim Wellens. In July he entered the Tour de France: he won stage 5 to Le Lioran, his second Tour de France stage win, after a long breakaway and having completed the final 17 kilometres (11 miles) solo. He also moved into the yellow jersey, which he held for three days, and finished 44th overall. Six days after the Tour de France, he finished fifth in the Clásica de San Sebastián in Spain.
On 6 August 2016, Van Avermaet won the men's individual road race at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. He initially joined a six-man breakaway on the first of three passes of the 25.7-kilometre (16.0 mi) Vista Chinesa Circuit loop, and managed to stay in contact with several climbing specialists on the next ascents. Van Avermaet was distanced by Vincenzo Nibali, Sergio Henao and Rafał Majka on the final climb, but after Nibali and Henao crashed out of the race on the final descent, Van Avermaet tandemed with Jakob Fuglsang to catch Majka on the run-in to the finish. Van Avermaet won the three-man sprint on Copacabana Beach before Fuglsang and Majka to claim the Olympic gold medal.
Later in the season he finished second in the Grand Prix de Québec behind Peter Sagan; he won the Grand Prix de Montréal ahead of Sagan; ended fourth overall in the Eneco Tour; as well as fourth in Binche–Chimay–Binche. He ended the season with a 10th place at the World Road Race Championships in Qatar.
After suffering an ankle fracture during the winter, Van Avermaet started his 2017 campaign in February at the Tour of the Valencian Community, in which his BMC Racing Team won the opening team time trial. Later in February he rode the Tour of Oman, before competing in the opening weekend of Belgian races. He won his second consecutive Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, again after beating Peter Sagan in a three-man sprint in Ghent; and finished seventh in Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne the next day.
As usual, he proceeded his spring campaign in the Italian races Strade Bianche, in which he finished second behind Michał Kwiatkowski; Tirreno–Adriatico, in which his BMC Racing Team won the team time trial and he moved into the race lead for one day; and was 21st in Milan–San Remo. On 24 March 2017, Van Avermaet won E3 Harelbeke in a three-man sprint, ahead of Belgians Philippe Gilbert and Oliver Naesen. Two days later, he continued his winning streak with victory in Gent–Wevelgem in a two-man sprint against Jens Keukeleire. The pairing had broken away from a select group of riders on the run-in towards Wevelgem. Van Avermaet became the second rider to win Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, E3 Harelbeke and Gent–Wevelgem in the same season, after Jan Raas in 1981, and moved into the lead of the UCI World Tour.
Still seeking his first win in a monument classic, he was favourite for the Tour of Flanders, but crashed on the final ascent of Oude Kwaremont together with Peter Sagan as they were chasing Philippe Gilbert. Halted in his pursuit, he finished second behind his former teammate Gilbert. On 9 April 2017, Van Avermaet won Paris–Roubaix, claiming his first career monument victory. After suffering a mechanical failure at 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the finish and a 22-kilometre (14 mi) chase to return to the peloton, he made the decisive move with 30 kilometres (19 miles) to go. He broke away with five others on the cobbled sector of Templeuve-en-Pévèle in pursuit of his teammate Daniel Oss. After the sector of Carrefour de l'Arbre, only Zdeněk Štybar and Sebastian Langeveld were with him, and Van Avermaet outsprinted his companions for the win on the Roubaix Velodrome. Van Avermaet's average speed of 45.204 kilometres per hour (28.088 mph) was the fastest in Paris–Roubaix history, breaking the previous record set by Peter Post in 1964. The race was also the first monument win for the BMC Racing Team. He ended his spring campaign with a 12th place in the Amstel Gold Race and 11th in Liège–Bastogne–Liège.
In April 2015 the Royal Belgian Cycling League requested a two-year ban for Van Avermaet, the disqualification of all his results during the 2012 season and a €262,500 fine following an investigation into suspected anti-doping offences. It was reported in the Belgian media that their accusations focused on allegations of Van Avermaet's use of the corticoid Diprophos, and Vaminolact, a fortified baby food which is banned from being injected. On 7 May 2015, it was announced that Van Avermaet was cleared of all allegations.