GENT, Belgium (VN) — Sky dominated early in this classics season but was dealt a small blow in the Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday when it could not deliver with Welshman Geraint Thomas.
After a couple of days of reflection, the British team regrouped for the remaining two races of the cobbled campaign: Scheldeprijs Wednesday and Paris-Roubaix on Sunday.
The big one is Paris-Roubaix, in northern France. Englishman Bradley Wiggins, winner of the 2012 Tour de France, is targeting the race as sort of a swansong with Team Sky. Afterward, he will leave the team to focus on the track.
“Brad’s the guy for Roubaix at the moment,” Thomas said. “He’s targeting it, and usually when he targets something, he gets it. He will have good legs.”
Wiggins crashed in the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) on Sunday. He fell 111.4 kilometers into the race, landed on his left side and bounced right back up for a new bike. At kilometer 178.2, he was already at the front again, where Sky rode for most of day.
“Brad’s got some cuts and bruises, but he’s fine,” a team official told VeloNews today.
“He didn’t need to go to the hospital, or need stitches.”
Wiggins left Thomas to do his thing after the final ascent of the cobbled Kwaremont climb. Thomas attacked on the Kwaremont, but lacked the punch he had when he won E3 Harelbeke and placed third in Gent-Wevelgem the weekend prior.
Thomas was also caught out by tactics. With Dutchman Niki Terpstra (Etixx-Quick-Step) up the road, his companion Etixx’s Zdenek Stybar would not work.
Thomas will now turn his attention to Wiggins, who is riding his final race with Sky before aiming at the hour record and 2016 Olympics.
“We are going to have a talk on Thursday and on Friday, we’ll know for sure who is the leader and co-leader,” sports director, Servais Knaven told VeloNews.
“There’s no question about Wiggins. He’s in a good place. He’s one of our best riders for Sunday.
“Do you call him a ‘leader?’ Paris-Roubaix is a different race with different tactics. If one protected rider attacks, then he will have his freedom.”
Sky will potentially have five protected riders: Wiggins, Thomas, Luke Rowe, Ian Stannard, and Bernie Eisel.
The team in black and blue rode for two hours Monday and trained again Tuesday, covering the final 105 kilometers of Paris-Roubaix in three hours, 15 minutes.
In 2014, Wiggins and Thomas made the winning group, but had no response to Terpstra, who rode solo to the win.
Thomas took seventh and Wiggins ninth.
Wiggins wants to win the Hell of the North after a five-year run in team Sky. With his trainer, Tim Kerrison, he studied the 27 cobbled sectors that make up the French monument. He timed each one and calculated the watts he needs to ride to be competitive again.
“It’s pretty simple: what time are you spending and what intensity, and the intervals between the sectors, what [the watts] look like on the cobbles, what it looks like the rest of the time,” Sky’s head of performance operations, Rod Ellingworth told VeloNews.
“It’s different training than for the Tour de France, but you can do things to replicate what you’ll find in Paris-Roubaix.”
Wiggins will generate his maximum watts in Scheldeprijs tomorrow – a 200-kilometer race compared to Roubaix’s 253 – one final tune-up before the appointment in northern France. Saturday, he will travel to Compiègne ahead of the early 10:20 a.m. start on Sunday, his last hurrah with Sky.