Sky sports director Servais Knaven is confident there will be no internal conflict when Bradley Wiggins slots into the team’s classics line-up prior to Paris-Roubaix.
Sky has gone to notable lengths to consolidate its classics squad over the past two seasons but Wiggins hasn’t had much involvement in that ongoing project.
Het Nieuwsblad champion Ian Stannard as well as Geraint Thomas and Edvald Boasson Hagen headline the group that has bought into new approaches, travelled, trained and raced extensively together in an effort to win the outfit’s first Monument.
“I’m 100 per cent sure there’s not going to be any issue with Brad and the other guys,” Knaven told Cycling Weekly. “They’ve known Brad for years and Brad knows G [Thomas] and Eddy [Boasson Hagen] and Bernie [Eisel]. I don’t see any concerns with that.”
Wiggins has an unmemorable Paris-Roubaix history – his best result in three career appearances was 25th in 2009 with Garmin-Slipstream – but his winning ambition there this year has been well publicised.
The 33-year-old is set to join Sky’s full cobble classics squad after the Tour of Flanders and race the April 9 Scheldeprijs before the Hell of the North on April 13.
“Brad is also preparing for Roubaix and he will be good in Roubaix,” Knaven said.
“He also has to be honest in the final. If he feels he has to close a gap or has to ride for someone else he will do the same as all the others would do. Everybody is happy with a strong rider like Brad coming to Roubaix.”
Sky last year followed an unprecedented approach to the classics substituting stage races for training in the lead-up. The team abandoned that strategy this year to great effect given Stannard’s Nieuwsblad victory and Thomas’s leadership stint at Paris-Nice. However, that doesn’t necessarily translate to boss status at April Monuments.
Sky has previously been criticised for its indefinite leadership approach in spring, and the addition of Wiggins could in one sense compound on that.
“The plan is a bit like we did at Nieuwsblad,” Knaven countered. “We start with one leader and one back-up. With Ian winning Nieuwsblad I think it worked out really well.
“It’s up to us altogether to decide who will be the leader. The decision is not yet made because it’s still two weeks to Harelbeke, three weeks until Flanders and four weeks to Roubaix.
“Brad is not saying, ‘I have to be the leader.’ He also understands that maybe other guys are performing better at the moment. I think we have a really solid group and four or five riders could be the leader for one of the races, and also be the winner.
“It all depends how the race goes and Brad knows the race,” the 2001 Roubaix champion Knaven continued. “He knows where it’s going to be really important and where he has to be. I spoke with Brad about it and he really wants to see how far he can get.
“He can win it the way I won it when we have numbers. When he’s isolated of course he also has a chance but then it’s going to be more difficult like for most riders in the peloton. We’d hope for the right moment for him to get in the right breakaway in the final. It’s really important about positioning and about having the legs.
“It’s a good sign towards Paris-Roubaix that a rider like Brad really loves that race. There’s not many former Tour de France champions who are that excited about Paris-Roubaix.”
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