Geraint Thomas is helping Chris Froome in the Volta a Catalunya this week and building for the Tour de France, but his heart is still in the classics. He is not defending his E3 Harelbeke title on Friday in Flanders, but Sky says that they must field him in the Tour of Flanders next Sunday.
Thomas and Sky decided over the winter to shift towards stage racing. He will support Froome for a third Tour title in July and possibly have a chance to lead the team. However, he is still parachuting in for specific classics like Milan-San Remo last Saturday, Flanders and possibly Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
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Servais Knaven, Sky’s head Classics sports director, helped his other stars like Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard set off on Friday morning in the crisp air of Harelbeke. He said that he looks forward to seeing Thomas in Belgium again next week.
“His main goal is being in top shape for the Tour, and being a good climber,” Knaven explained. “That’s the reason he’s in the Volta a Catalunya, not here in the E3 Harelbeke. In his position, if he wants to do Flanders, we’d be crazy not to take him. He’s one of the best riders in the team, even without the best prep, he still can be [good].”
Thomas led Sky through the classics last year with Bradley Wiggins. He won the E3 Harelbeke, placed third in Ghent-Wevelgem and 14th in Flanders. The year before, he placed eight in Flanders and seventh in Paris-Roubaix.
However, he improved significantly in stage racing. He rode as high as fourth overall in the third week of the Tour last year. He won the Volta ao Algarve twice and this month, he captured his most important victory yet, the Paris-Nice overall.
Watch: Servais Knaven talks Kwiatkowski’s E3 win
“When you are a little kid and you start riding, 90% of the kids talk about winning the Tour de France, not Flanders. OK, maybe in Belgium they talk about Flanders. G found out that he can do well in the Tour, he made the transition, but now he wants to make the final step. That involves riding in the mountains in races like Catalunya to be ready,” Knaven said.
“His heart is still in the classics, but you have to make some compromises, so he can’t be here in E3 and Ghent-Wevelgem. For sure, he will think about E3 today, he won it last year. When you are such a good bike rider like G, you have to make decisions. This is the right moment to make that decision, if he waited one or two years to race for the Tour, it’d be harder.”
Thomas said in Cycling Weekly magazine this week that the Volta a Catalunya will be good preparation for Flanders, but added, “It’ll be strange. For sure I’ll miss E3 and Ghent-Wevelgem when I see them on the TV, but at least I’m racing at the same time and not sitting at home watching.”
Luke Rowe, Ian Stannard and former world champion Michal Kwiatkowski lead Sky in the E3 Harelbeke.