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Sky picks Tenerife camp, no Paris-Nice, Tirreno for classics prep

Bucking tradition, the British squad will train at altitude in March instead of hitting the early one-weed stage races

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DOHA (VN) — Team Sky plans to arrive for its classics campaign via Tenerife, a small Spanish island off the western coast of Africa, and to skip Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico in early March. Geraint Thomas confirmed his plans for Milan-San Remo, the Ronde van Vlaanderen, and Paris-Roubaix on Sunday at the Tour of Qatar.

“There’s a bit of that risk,” said Thomas. “It’s worth giving it a good go; I don’t see why it shouldn’t work. It might be a couple of percentages either way. Maybe in April it might be totally different or it might go really well.”

Thomas, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Bernhard Eisel and others will travel to the team’s high-altitude base in Tenerife next month. It is the same location, at 2,165 meters, that Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and the GC team used ahead of winning the 2012 Tour de France.

The classics squad will race the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne semi-classics at the end of February, go home for a week and then leave for Tenerife. They will train on the island, roughly half the size of Delaware, for around two weeks or until San Remo on March 17.

The decision means that the team will deviate from the standard classics route via the Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico stage races. However, it allows Sky to tailor its riders’ training instead of going along with the race rhythm.

Sky performance trainer Tim Kerrison is behind the riders’ programs. If it works, as it did with the Tour, he will be hailed as a training guru. If it fails, he and the riders may be the joke of the peloton.

Thomas said that other teams have yet to try such a plan because cycling is too rich in tradition.

“I think it’s typical cyclist mentality, what they used to do in Merckx era,” Thomas said. “It’s tradition and stuff, and cyclists get stuck in their ways.”

He helped Great Britain win the team pursuit gold medal at the Beijing and London Olympics and wore the white jersey of best young rider at the 2011 Tour. His confirmed in Qatar that his switch to the road was permanent. If he races the Rio De Janeiro Games in 2016, Thomas said that he wants to participate in the road race and time trial.

The 26-year-old is talented on the road. He nearly won the Tour Down Under last month. Last year, he placed 10th in Flanders. As a junior, he won Paris-Roubaix. With proper training and experience, Thomas looks likely to be a winner in a major classic.

“[The Tenerife approach] worked for the Tour so we’re going to try and do it for the classics. It won’t be worse than doing Paris-Nice and Tirreno, and we hope it will be better,” sports director, Servais Knaven said.

The hotel sits on top of a volcano, the Pico de Teide, in a national park. Long, barren mountain roads lead to the top, but the riders can easily train at altitude.

“They’ll look for climbs that are similar to the Flemish climbs. It’s the best preparation you can get I think. It’s something new,” Knaven said. “They can train more specifically; that’s the idea behind it.”

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