Rowe returns to Paris-Roubaix despite breaking his leg severly in the latter part of 2017
The Welshman broke his leg after jumping into a river last summer after the 2017 Tour de France, only returning to competition at the Abu Dhabi Tour in February.
“I hope someone will win from Team Sky, of course,” Knaven told Cycling Weekly. “We have the legs to win, but we could also finish fifth. Gianni Moscon will be good, Ian Stannard. If I had to name one pick… I’d say Luke Rowe.
“It’s possible. He’s surprising the whole world he’s back on the bike that early, even making it through the Tour of Flanders and now Paris-Roubaix.
“Luke’s really motivated and it’s a race that suits him. I pick him, it’d be so nice to see happen.”
Rowe fractured his right fibula and tibia last summer, with doctors saying it could be 12 months until he returned to competition, but he made it in six. Now, he is named as a possible winner by Sky.
Rowe broke clear in the Dwars door Vlaanderen and in Tour of Flanders rode well until the jury disqualified him for riding on a pavement ahead of the final Oude Kwaremont climb.
Rowe will ride with Ian Stannard, Gianni Moscon, Dylan Van Baarle, Christian Knees, and Geraint Thomas at Paris-Roubaix.
“Then the seventh rider who’s decided but not [revealed] yet. We have a strong group of riders. Roubaix is also about the strength of the team, about having the numbers and then you can play the tactics in the final,” Knaven explained.
“We have a really good team for that, for Sunday. Everyone is able to make top five when they have a good day, and that’s really important.”
Sky like other teams, must face a dominant Quick-Step Floors team with four strong leaders, including Tour of Flanders victor Niki Terpstra. Knaven, the 2001 Paris-Roubaix winner, also considers Sky’s depth a plus.
“That’s key for Roubaix, and then you need to have that one who can really make the difference. We were up there with Dylan Van Baarle in the final of Flanders and then Niki Terpstra went, and you could see he was better than all the others.
“Roubaix is a different race without the climbs so the tactic is a little bit different than in Flanders.”
Thomas is parachuting in just for Paris-Roubaix after skipping the other Classics. His eye is on the Tour de France this summer, but he could not turn down a chance to race over France’s cobbles.
“Thomas wanted to do Roubaix, and when he got the OK from [coach] Tim Kerrison and could put it on his programme, he was so happy, like a happy kid,” Knaven added.
“You need to have someone who’s happy to be there who wants to change his programme to do that race, and he loves this race and wants to do it. We need to have that, those riders who want to go 100% on Sunday.
“He did a similar thing a few years ago and he went quite far in the final and he was strong. Without any bad luck, for sure, you will see him in the final on Sunday. If that’s enough to win, it’s hard to say, but you never know.”