Geraint Thomas must push for the Tour de France after a successful 2015 and sacrifice the Classics, says Team Sky’s Servais Knaven.
Thomas won E3 Harelbeke and placed third in Ghent-Wevelgem this spring. At the Tour, he sat fourth overall, battled for the podium and helped Chris Froome win the overall. Only in the last two mountain days, after a crash, did he slip to 15th overall.
Sky will focus his energies in 2016 on stage races and preparing for the Tour de France. Knaven, winner of the 2001 Paris-Roubaix and sports director for Sky’s Classics team, explained that it is the right move given the 29-year-old Welshman’s progression.
“These days, it’s so much focused on the Grand Tours. If you want to win the Tour, you can’t spread yourself thin over the Classics. It’s harder and harder to do so with it becoming so specialised,” Knaven told Cycling Weekly.
“In a few years, it’d be even harder for him. He has to change his focus to stage races, ride more in the mountains if he wants to do it. This is the last step that he needs, it’s more than normal that he can go for it.”
Cycling Weekly spoke to Geraint Thomas in early 2015
Team principal, David Brailsford told Cycling Weekly that Thomas will a protected leader alongside Froome if all goes to plan.
The shift in thinking means that Thomas will back off the Classics to prepare better for the Tour. This spring, he finished Paris-Nice and then began big one-day races with Milan-San Remo. He continued with E3 Harelbeke, Ghent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders, Scheldeprijs and Paris-Roubaix.
“For sure,” Knaven added. “He will do fewer classics than before.”
Thomas may cut some of those races and add in Liège-Bastogne-Liège as he builds for July.
“If you have the potential to finish top five, top three or win, it’s a logical choice,” said Knaven.
“I can totally understand. It’s a pity for us, for the Classics group, but he has to make those decisions. It’s important for him to try, he can wear the yellow jersey. He has the potential, for sure.
“He can do everything. We used him all year, in races to help others, but now it’s time for him to stand up for himself and see how he can go in the Grand Tours.”
Knaven sees the Classics group just as strong with a part-time Thomas. He will rely on Ben Swift, Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe in San Remo. Stannard and Rowe will continue in northern cobbled Classics with new hire Michal Kwiatkowski likely racing Flanders before turning to the Ardennes Classics.
“For the cobbled classics, we will have a similar strength,” Knaven added. “Luke and Ian will get more opportunities, which is good for their future.”