Juan Antonio Flecha begins his new life after team Sky this week in the Tour of Qatar. The Spanish classics star signed for Dutch team, Vacansoleil-DCM over the winter after three years in Sky.
“It doesn’t matter where the team is from. I’ve been with Sky three years, Spanish teams, Italian teams, so… It’s nothing to do with the nationality of the team,” Flecha told Cycling Weekly yesterday.
“I was looking for a little bit more freedom, not all the time working for leaders. I wanted to be in a little more chilled environment.”
Flecha joined Sky for its debut year in 2010. He won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and placed on the podium in Paris-Roubaix.
“[Vacansoleil] will give me more of a chance to be in the break-aways and that style of cycling, I wasn’t doing that much maybe at Sky. I want to get back to doing that,” Flecha continued. “I really enjoyed it a lot at Sky in the last three years, especially last year, but I felt that time was over and I needed a change.”
The 35-year-old joins Marco Marcato and Björn Leukemans in Vacansoleil-DCM. Leukemans scored several top tens in the classics in 2011.
“We have a strong team for the classics,” team sports director, Michel Cornelisse explained. “[Flecha and Leukemans] they can help each other, they’re not big competition for each other, they most both make the attack. If one is a sprinter, than the other must help, but they are both attackers and must attack.”
Cornelisse said this will be Flecha’s chance to spread his wings.
“In this team he can also go for his own chances. I think that was very important for him, if he has good condition he can continue for two more years.”
Sky now has Geraint Thomas, Ian Stannard, Bernhard Eisel and Edvald Boasson Hagen as possible classics leaders.
Flecha’s run to the classics last year with Sky was spoiled when he fractured a bone in his hand during training. He only returned to racing in the Tour of Flanders, where he placed 20th. In Paris-Roubaix the following Sunday, he placed fourth.
To be ready for this year, Flecha began his season in the Tour of Qatar with his classics rivals. Only Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) is missing, but Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) and Sky are present.
“The wind’s strong here,” Flecha said. “It’s about fighting for your position, for speed and pushing those watts on flat roads.”