'Clear leaders' make Team Sky squad stronger for the Classics, says Dave Brailsford

The Sky team principal says that there is less confusion about each team member's role for the Spring Classics, making the squad stronger as a whole

Team Sky's boss Dave Brailsford says that the team is beginning the big Classics more streamlined and with clearer roles. This Sunday, Geraint Thomas will lead the team together with Michal Kwiatkowski in the Tour of Flanders

Brailsford showed a broad smile Sunday morning at the start of Ghent-Wevelgem, and he had reason to.

Two days prior, Kwiatkowski won the E3 Harelbeke and Ian Stannard took the sprint for third place. He looked over his troupe stepping off Sky's black bus, noting how different it is than in the last six years.

"One of the things we have is less leaders, less clear leaders," Brailsford told Cycling Weekly.

"In the past, we had a strong group who all think that maybe they have a chance, so you lack that real clarity of who's going to give what for whom.

"I think we suffered from that in the past. Now, it's a lot clearer in the roles and who's doing what. They are all 100% committed to each other, which makes that little bit of a difference."

Sky last year led with both Thomas and Bradley Wiggins in Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. They also relied on Luke Rowe and Stannard.

Rowe placed eighth in Paris-Roubaix for Sky and Stannard overhauled three Etixx-Quick-Step riders to win the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad for a second time.

Wiggins left Sky to race the track, Thomas has turned his attention to stage racing and former world champion and last year's Amstel Gold Race winner, Kwiatkowski joined Sky. Brailsford, though, said the focus is sharper now.

Watch: How to make a Team Sky rider breakfast

Kwiatkowski, Thomas and Ben Swift led in Milan-San Remo, where Swift sprinted to second. Thomas raced the Volta a Catalunya, but returns for Flanders and co-leads with Kwiatkowski. And for Paris-Roubaix, on April 10, Rowe and Stannard will have their chance to lead.

"From a team's point of view they are buoyant, they are having a good time. It's a good group and the morale is good. When you race with confidence, it's big difference," Brailsford added.

"When a big new rider like [Kwiatkowski] comes to the team, it's like having a big striker in your football team, he wants to get that first goal.

"The longer they go without that first goal, the more pressure it puts on everybody. He was thrilled to get that [E3] win. It's good for his confidence, good for his belief, and it settles him down in his new team. The pressure's off him. He can enjoy himself now."

Insiders say Kwiatkowski is one of the big Flanders favourites with Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing).

Brailsford then considered the 2016 season so far. Kwiatkowski won the E3 Harelbeke one year after Thomas and the Welshman earlier this month won his biggest stage race yet, Paris-Nice. He defended the team's 2015 victory with Richie Porte, who joined BMC Racing this winter.

In terms of team victories, it is the second most successful in the WorldTour. Etixx leads with 19, Sky and Astana both count 12.

"That's the most pleasing thing, to come back and [defend titles] with different riders. We are not just relying on two rides to deliver.

"It's also pleasing to see how young lads like Luke Rowe are going. His performance in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad was very encouraging. The team is developing, we are not just relying on two guys with nothing underneath.

"We are very much on track [to have the most successful season yet]. We had a great start to the season.

Mikel Landa finally made his debut for Team Sky, taking part in the Coppi & Bartali Week in Italy. Russian Sergey Firzanov took the overall victory.

Mikel Landa finally made his debut for Team Sky, taking part in the Coppi & Bartali Week in Italy. Russian Sergey Firzanov took the overall victory.
(Image credit: Graham Watson)

"We won with Wout Poels the other day. Chris [Froome] is back into racing. He needs Catalunya before he steps up that to that next little step. He was 27 minutes down last year in Catalunya, so I'd say he's in a much better place than last year. It bodes well."

Brailsford said the Tour de France will be an "all-mighty battle" with Froome going up against Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and Porte. He does not want to forget about the Giro d'Italia in May, though. This winter, he signed Mikel Landa, third in 2015's race, to lead.

Landa delayed his season until last week due to a cold and Beñat Intxausti, another new Spaniard to the team, had to take a break with glandular fever. Brailsford admitted that the team had many illnesses.

"That's probably my only question mark with the illnesses," he added. "Landa has definitely come back around and it's now a question of getting his training right between here and the Giro."

Sir Brailsford then turned his attention back to the last of his riders heading to the Ghent-Wevelgem. Rowe, later in the day, attacked with the favourites over the Kemmelberg and said the race gave him confidence for Paris-Roubaix.

Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.