Vital to Team Sky’s success at Paris-Nice, where he coached race winner Egan Bernal through the mayhem caused by the crosswinds that hit the race over its first three days, Luke Rowe came out of ‘the Race to the Sun’ with his form good, confidence high and determined to put two years of setbacks in the Classics behind him.
“For one reason or another over the last two years things haven’t gone my way,” Rowe told Cycling Weekly in Nice. “I’ve finished Paris-Roubaix in an ambulance the last two years, but this year I’m confident and think my form is better than ever.”
The Welshman believes that the one ingredient that he has been missing in the Classics is a bit of good fortune, and hopes he will find that at Milan-San Remo and, particularly, during the subsequent three weeks that he will spend in Belgium, culminating with leading Sky’s attack at Roubaix.
“Everything has to go right on the day, because to an extent you’re a lottery when you’re in those races,” he said.
“The fire in the belly is there and I want to step into them and try to get a result. Two or three years ago I was knocking on the door and looked like I was going to make a breakthrough, but I haven’t taken that next step forward in the last year or two. It’s time to step up and try to deliver a result, it’s as simple as that,” said Rowe.
Reflecting on Bernal’s Paris-Nice success, Rowe explained that Sky had taken a calculated risk by weighting its team with several climbers and with the Welshman as the one specialist rouleur to support the Colombian and Michał Kwiatkowski over the first three days on flatter roads open to the wind.
“We took a risk that we could deal with what might happen in the early days and go into in the second half still in the contest, and that paid off. Then we knew that we were in a great position. The last few days the small guys have stepped up and we’ve come out on top,” said Rowe.
The Welshman paid fulsome tribute to Bernal’s performance, suggesting that it augurs well for his future role as a Grand Tour leader. “There are GC guys who can ride in crosswinds, but there are others who can’t, and it hampers them throughout their career. You know that as soon as there’s one crosswind day they are out of the equation,” said the Welshman.
“But Egan, he’s just got it, and that’s instantly going to put him on the front foot in most GC races and Grand Tours. It’s a massive weapon to have. He wants to learn, he was asking questions, but essentially he’s just a class act.”
Rowe revealed that the Colombian did get a little nervous when compatriot and rival Nairo Quintana went clear on the final stage and became the leader on the road, but essentially remained calm.
“If you’re not calm in situations like that, you just use up energy, thinking and overthinking, being worried.
“Staying calm in situations like that demands a lot, but once you’ve developed that level of trust in your team-mates, when you can say to yourself, ‘I’m going to follow these guys whatever and wherever because I know they’re going to do the best by me, and I trust them,’ and we’ve developed that now, that level of trust and commitment.”