Team Sky's Luke Rowe says the squad is ready to to "up their game" at the Tour of Flanders, after disappointment at E3 Harelbeke and Ghent-Wevelgem last weekend
The Welshman’s third place at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in February has so far been the team’s best result in the Classics, with Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) walking away with much of the silverware.
Rowe says the Sky team, which this year features British neo pros Owain Doull and Jon Dibben in its Classics line-up, is riding better than its results suggest, and that it’s a lack of fortune rather than condition that has been at the heart of the current results drought.
“Last weekend, on a personal note, was really disappointing,” he conceded of his 15th place and DNF at E3 Harelbeke and Ghent-Wevelgem respectively.
“Wevelgem was a shocker of a day. I just had no legs. There’s a couple of days a year where you’re just empty and you’re useless and unfortunately last weekend was one of those days.
“Last weekend was just diabolical,” he added. “We’ve got to do better. There’s no excuses really – we have to up our game at Flanders and Roubaix and see what we can do.”
Rowe said that he and the team were ready to bounce back and fight hard for results over the next two weekends, saying there were plenty of positives to be taken from the last six weeks of racing.
“The most important thing is how your condition is at the moment, and despite the results not being there, the whole team is as a unit is riding well. If it could go our way a little bit, play out the way we want it to, we could deliver a result,” he said.
The Classics this year, Rowe added, had been raced more aggressively than he’d ever seen, largely due to strength of Sagan and Van Avermaet.
“Sagan showed how strong he was early on and to a certain extent Greg as well.
“People are trying to isolate them… people are trying to race earlier to get ahead,” he said — an observation echoed by his Sky directeur, former Paris-Roubaix winner Servais Knaven.
Watch: Tour of Flanders essential guide
“The guys saw a different way of racing in the last few races with [attacks] going early in Dwars Door Vlaanderen but also in E3,” said Knaven.
“They were a bit surprised by that; it was totally different to how a normal race would go.”
“I warned them, as soon as they go, you can’t hesitate. But the guys are in good shape. They ride well as a team. I think we have a really balanced team for Flanders. They will do a good race and I wouldn’t be surprised if they surprise some people.”
“You can’t go into these races with your head down,” concluded Rowe. “You’ve got to go in with your head held high — we’re optimistic and excited.”
Knaven admitted the fact that Sky aren’t tipped as one of the favourites for the title in Flanders can be an advantage to them.
In the 2015 edition of the race with Geraint Thomas leading the squad they were one of the favourites, but despite the team doing much of the work on the front of the peloton the Welshman was marked out by another team and unable to follow the winning move led by Alexander Kristoff and Niki Terpstra.
“With Gianni [Moscon], Luke [Rowe] and Ian [Stannard] we have three really strong riders, none of them are the favourites for Sunday but for sure I expect them to play a role in the final,” he continued.
“Two years ago we were the favourites and we had to ride all day to the Kruisberg, then another team really had to help us. No one helped us and Kristoff and Terpstra were gone and we had our guys there but no helpers any more.
“You see this week every team says they’re the favourite, to take the pressure from their own team and also so they have to work, because of course that’s going to happen.
“There will be an early break and one team has to take control. We did that two years ago this year it will be another team.”