Saxo Bank’s new classics leader, Belgian Nick Nuyens will take the cautious route to the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix next spring. At the team’s camp last week, he decided to skip Belgium’s season openers, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.
“Maybe it is surprising that I will not race the opening weekend,” Nuyens told Belgium’s Sporza TV. “Instead, I attend a training camp. This way we will avoid risks, such as illness. Last year, was a bad experience.”
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Sky’s Ian Stannard finished third in Kuurne last year behind winner Bobbie Traksel of team Vacansoleil. Nuyens “froze” and, with the majority of the racers, abandoned early due to high winds and cold temperatures. He won the Omloop in 2005 and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in 2006.
Saxo Bank’s boss, Bjarne Riis convinced his new recruit to skip the two races at the team’s camp in Fuerteventura, Spain.
“Riis understands this is painful for me, but I opted for a fresh start and I just decided to follow Riis,” said Nuyens. “We’ll see where it takes me.”
Nuyens will be Riis’ leader for the one-day classics in April since he lost Fabian Cancellara and Matti Breschel. Cancellara won the E3 Prijs, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix this spring. Breschel supported Cancellara and won the Dwars door Vlaanderen for himself. Cancellara signed to join Team Luxembourg and Breschel will ride for Rabobank, where Nuyens spent the last two years.
Saxo Bank “wants to make a new start,” said Nuyens. “They are not starting from scratch, but they want to change. There are not only many new riders, but the structure has also been updated.”
Nuyens won the Under 23 Flanders race in 2002 and in 2008, finished second in the professional version. Saxo Bank will have him lead the classics team, but it risks racing the Grand Tours without a true favourite.
Andy and Fränk Schleck left to form Team Luxembourg, and Alberto Contador, Riis’ new classification leader, is involved in a doping investigation. The investigation is expected to drag on until at least the spring.