Team Sky happy to back both Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe in cobbled Classics

Directeur sportif Servais Knaven says it's good to have "multiple cards" on the pavé

Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe on stage one of the 2016 Paris-Nice (Credit: Watson)
(Image credit: Watson)

As they did in 2016, Team Sky will enter the sharp end of the cobbled Classics with two clear leaders, rather than having a group of four or more riders going into races dreaming of victory.

Speaking before the start of E3 Harelbeke, Team Sky directeur sportif Servais Knaven was cagey about his team's tactics, but insisted that it was positive to have more than one leader at the Classics.

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"I think sometimes it’s better to have one leader, and sometimes it’s better to have two leaders.

"We have two really good riders so why should we play one card. In these sort of unpredictable races it’s always smart to play multiple cards."

This approach puts the team in the mid-point between teams such as Bora-Hansgrohe and BMC Racing, with sole leaders in the shape of Peter Sagan and Greg Van Avermaet respectively, and Quick-Step Floors, who enter most cobbled races with five or six riders who are arguably capable of winning.

Watch: Cobbled Classics 2017 essential guide

The "two really good riders" in the Sky Classics squad are the British duo of Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard, and Knaven said that both men are in good shape heading into the major Belgian Classics.

"Luke looked really strong at Paris-Nice. He was one of the key riders that helped Sergio Henao win.He also had a really good Milan-San Remo. He's ready.

"Ian didn't ride Paris-Nice or Tirreno, but he did San Remo and looked good there."

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As for whether the team would back one rider or the other for the major races in the coming weeks, perhaps working harder for Rowe at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, Knaven, a former winner of Paris-Roubaix himself, said the decision would be made closer to the time.

"We’ll have to see how E3 Harelbeke and Ghent-Wevelgem before deciding our strategy for Flanders and Roubaix. A lot can happen between now and next week."

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Henry Robertshaw began his time at Cycling Weekly working with the tech team, writing reviews, buying guides and appearing in videos advising on how to dress for the seasons. He later moved over to the news team, where his work focused on the professional peloton as well as legislation and provision for cycling. He's since moved his career in a new direction, with a role at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.