Chris Lawless says that the opening weekend of the cobbled classics in Belgium this weekend is ‘proper bike racing’ and he is relishing the chance of tackling them for the first time as a professional rider.
Lawless signed up with Team Sky for 2018, having ridden for American outfit Axeon-Hagens Berman in 2017 and British squads Team Wiggins and JLT Condor before that.
The current British under-23 road race national champion will race in both Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Sunday’s Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.
“It’s obviously my first pro cobbled race so it’s a bit nerve wracking as you don’t know what to expect, but it’s really exciting,” said the 22-year-old.
“I got over here on Tuesday night and then did a recon on Wednesday with the guys. It was good to do that, to ride the cobbles again, get used to the narrow roads and just think about how it will be on race day.”
Lawless made his debut with Team Sky at the Tour Down Under in Australia in January, and then rode in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race before returning to the colder climate of northern Europe.
“It’s just been about trying to get back into that zone after coming back from Australia, but I can’t wait for the racing to get started now,” Lawless commented.
This weekend’s double-header of races in Belgium are what many race fans consider to be the ‘proper’ start of the race season, rather than the less-well-established events in Australia and the Middle East that now dominate January and February. Lawless seems to agree with the fans.
“I’ve been coming over here for a few years now. The first race I did in Belgium was when I was about 15. It’s proper bike racing – everyone loves it. The crowd gets really enthusiastic and the heritage of so many of the races over here is pretty amazing.”
After this weekend, Lawless says he will put in another section of training before tackling more of the classics in northern Europe.
On Saturday, Lawless joins Sky team-mates Jon Dibben, Owain Doull, Michal Golas, Christian Knees, Dylan van Baarle and Lukasz Wisniowski at Het Nieuwsblad.