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Greg Van Avermaet Takes the Proust Questionnaire

From Issue 80 • Introduction by James Startt, Illustration by Matthew Burton.

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Greg Van Avermaet is one of the sport’s most unassuming champions…and also one of the winningest. From his Olympic gold medal to Paris–Roubaix, to the Tour de France yellow jersey, he is one of the smartest, craftiest and toughest cyclists in the peloton. We caught up with him before the Grand Prix de Québec. And while Van Avermaet had a long list of media requests to fulfill, he was happy to do a Proust kind of interview with PELOTON.


What is your idea of perfect happiness? Oh, being balanced with yourself and at one with yourself.

What is your greatest fear? To die.

What is the trait that you most dislike in yourself? I’m stubborn.

What trait do you most dislike in other people? Negativity.

Which living person do you most admire? My grandmother. She was always there for me when I was young…and always so proud when we are with her.

What is your greatest extravagance? I’m not the kind of person that spends a lot of money on something without thinking about it. And if I do buy something expensive I would think 3,000 times about it before buying it…so at that point it really doesn’t become an extravagance.

What is your current state of mind? Really happy.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue? No virtue can be overrated.

On what occasion do you lie? When I say I had really good legs in a race and in fact they were very average.

What do you most dislike about your appearance? My feet. They just give me so many problems.

What living person do you most despise? I don’t hate anyone.

What quality do you most like in a man? Honesty.

What quality do you most like in a woman? Honesty.

Which words or phrases do you overuse? Pretty…when I say, “pretty much,” or “pretty hard” or “pretty good.”

Who or what is the greatest love of your life? My daughter, Fleur.

When or where were you happiest? Most of the time, just at home.

Which talent would you most like to have? To be more secure about myself.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be? My feet.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? Well, as a professional athlete, winning the Olympic gold medal in Rio.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what would it be? An eagle—to be a big bird flying above the world totally free.

Where would you most like to live? Probably Belgium.

What is your most treasured possession? Probably the ring on my finger. My girlfriend and I both bought one for each other after we had only been going out for two months, and we are still together 16 years later. I don’t even want a wedding ring. This one only cost about 20 euros, but it’s special.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Extreme poverty and homelessness.

What is your favorite occupation? Cycling.

What is your most marked characteristic? I never give up.

What do you most value in your friends? To be there in the right moments when you really need them most.

Who are your favorite writers? I’m not really a writer.

Who is your hero in fiction? Superman.

Which historical person or figure do you most identify with? Michelangelo—the way he painted was just perfection.

What are your favorite names? Fleur.

What is it that you most dislike? To be stressed.

What is your greatest regret? In life, I don’t have any; but in my sporting life, not having won the Tour of Flanders yet.

How would you like to die? In my home.

What is your motto? I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.

From issue 80.