Briton Geraint Thomas will start his first Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday hoping to end Team Sky’s one day Classic drought. The team have had a largely anonymous spring in single day events, their best placing Lukas Wisniowski’s second way back at February’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
While this year they have suffered injuries and bad luck, Sky have historically under-performed in the sport’s five Monuments. Only in 2016, their seventh season did Wout Poels’s bag Liège their first success in the most revered one day events, and that remains one of only two Monument successes to date.
“It would be good for the team to get a result,” Thomas told Cycling Weekly, fresh from a pre-race recon of the course.
“There is that extra motivation, I guess a bit more pressure, but personally I have my programme and my whole build up and I don’t feel like I have to come here and win to save the spring.”
Through his 13 race days so far this year Thomas has shown good form, winning the Volta ao Algarve time trial and finishing second on general classification, subsequently finish third overall at Tirreno-Adriatico.
The slower start to his season is to accommodate more racing late in the year. Thomas is slated to ride both the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España, and it is the lighter early season programme which has allowed him to ride Liège for the first time in his eleven year professional career.
“It’s a race I’ve always watched and enjoyed and wanted to do, but it has never fitted, whether I’ve been on the track or doing the cobbles, so I’m looking forward to it.
“I love the one days races, obviously Roubaix was exciting but that went tits up, so that was race over after 100k, so I haven’t raced since Tirreno, so I don’t really know how the legs will be.”
His Paris-Roubaix came to an end after a crash 100km in, and while Thomas does not know where his form is, he does hope to be able to contribute in the final as Sunday’s race reaches the suburbs of Liège.
“It’s such a gruelling race. I’ve done La Redoute a few times before, but the other climbs like St Nicolas and the one before [Roche-aux-Faucons] are just as hard really. La Redoute has this big aura around it, but after 250k of racing it is just a war of attrition.
“You look at the last few years and it is always come down to that last k, when Wout won it was probably the smallest group, other than that Valverde always wins from a group of 10 or 12 guys.
“Getting four of us into the final should be possible, and go from there and covering moves. Quick-Step always seem to have guys up the road or even that second wave, they have guys there, so I think we try to be proactive and ride with sensible aggression.”
With Thomas’s new focus on riding for Grand Tour general classification, 2018 may not be the only time we see him in the Ardennes, though it is clear his heart lies in the northern races.
“Certainly the next couple of years when I am trying to do well in stage races this week will probably be a better week than the cobbles, but for sure I will be going back to them at some stage.”
The 258km Liège-Bastogne-Liège kicks off at 10.10am CET and will be shown in Eurosport.