The majority of Sky’s Classics squad arrived in Belgium on Tuesday night for course reconnaissance in what is part of an untested programme aimed at winning a one-day title in 2013.
The Belgium mission comes on the back of an intensive 12-day camp in Majorca, Spain where riders focused more on specific training and efforts under the guidance of sport scientist, Tim Kerrison.
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“It’s pretty early, I don’t think other teams go that early, but it’s also the time frame we have. We go to Majorca in January and then the guys go to Tour Down Under,” sports director and 2001 Paris-Roubaix champion Servais Knaven told Cycling Weekly today.
“I think it’s really good to do it now because not all the riders know the roads in Belgium and it’s really important to know the course as well as possible, so this will help. They can think about it, talk about it, and then they come back in February and they’ll do another recon.
“I think you learn more when you do it [recon] in training. We have a young group and not everyone knows everything so that’s a good plan.
“This is the first time we’ve done it in December but we’ve combined it with the training camp in Majorca. Instead of spending two days more in Majorca, they fly to Belgium and from Belgium they fly back home on Thursday. It doesn’t make the camp longer and it’s only two days, when the weather is really bad two days is still doable. You don’t want to put them for a week in Belgium!
“I think Edvald [Boasson Hagen] he lives in Norway, and it’s also winter there, and some guys live in the UK so they have similar weather at home and at home they have to train as well.
“There is another two days to be better prepared. It’s not to get in better shape but to prepare mentally.”
The team will skip some early season races to build in more training camps and will stay together – riders, carers, sports directors and mechanics – up until April. It’s a similar model to what the British-based outfit used for the Tour de France this year where champion Bradley Wiggins and a core group trained and raced together from virtually the pre-season to the Grand Depart.
Former Ghent-Wevelgem champions Boasson Hagen and Bernhard Eisel as well as Geraint Thomas and Ian Stannard headline the group traveling to Belgium.
“They are maybe already a bit better than this time last year. It’s good to see the spirit and the ambience. It’s a really good group. I think that’s maybe the most important thing – that you get along well – because they’re going to be together from now until [Paris] Roubaix,” Knaven said after the December training camp.
“That’s the same as we what we did for the Tour de France and at the end you create a situation where everybody knows each other well and decisions are made much easier.”
Eisel extends with Sky