Bradley Wiggins says he is ready to work for Ian Stannard at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (opens in new tab) on Saturday, as the 2012 Tour de France winner continues his build-up to Paris-Roubaix (opens in new tab) in April.
As defending champion (opens in new tab), Stannard looks likely to lead the team at the first cobbled race of the year, but Wiggins aims to be in the mix in the finale in Belgium.
Speaking to the Team Sky website (opens in new tab), Wiggins said he was feeling ready for action after beginning his season at the Tour of Qatar earlier in February (opens in new tab), where he donned his rainbow bands (opens in new tab) for the first time in the time trial.
“I feel good," he said. "I’m coming off the back of a good block of training and I’m ready for what I consider to be the start of my season proper now. I used the Tour of Qatar as a preparation race, but this next month of racing is where it really matters.
“There’s still a long way to go until Paris-Roubaix and for me, it’s all about continuing to work and going through the process in the build up to that.
“For Omloop Het Niuewsblad, we’ve got last year’s winner in Ian Stannard, and he’s trying to do the double, so my job will be to put him in the best position to win.
“I’d like to be there when it matters in the final. It’s not going to be a case of emptying the tank in the first 100km and then swinging over, my goal will be to finish, to finish well, and be there in the last 30-40km when there might be a break that needs chasing down or we to drive things ourselves.
“After everything these guys have given me over the years, I’m looking forward to do a job for them as they go for the win.”
While Wiggins is no stranger to the cobbles, he has rarely fully focussed on a dedicated Classics campaign in his career and hasn't raced Het Nieuwsblad since 2005. A ninth place finish in last year's Paris-Roubaix seemed to spark the 34-year-old's ambition for victory at the monutment, before he returns to track racing (opens in new tab).
“Getting yourself into the right mind-set for the cobbled classics is far different to any other race.
“These races are over in one day and you don’t get a second chance. It’s a case of laying everything on the line, taking risks, and every one of them is a warzone. We all know the score and the strongest guys generally win.”
Wiggins didn't join teammates Luke Rowe and Stannard out on a reconnaissance (opens in new tab) ride on the Haaghoek yesterday, but knows that Saturday's semi-Classic is a tough test, particularly so early in the season.
“I didn’t finish that day [in 2005] and it doesn’t hold many significant memories to me other than it was a hard day out," he said.
“The biggest difference between this race and the other cobbled classics is the cold. Obviously, it’s still February and it’ll be a good 10-15 degrees warmer in five or six weeks’ time when the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix roll around.
"Tomorrow it’ll be around five degrees and that’s the thing that wears people out. Last year it rained as well and that really sorts the men from the boys."
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