By Daniel Benson in Gent, Belgium
Denmark's Matti Breschel hopes to improve on his Ronde van Vlaanderen sixth place finish when he rides Gent-Wevelgem and Paris Roubaix later this week. In Sunday's race the Saxo Bank rider was granted a free role within the team and was allowed to ride for himself. It paid off; Breschel was the team's top finisher after Fabian Cancellera suffered mechanical problems and Frank Høy broke his collarbone in a crash.
"The team has been struggling for the past few weeks but we were still up for the race," he told Cyclingnews from his team hotel in Belgium. "Having a free role meant I could follow the moves I needed to and rest when I felt necessary. It was an active race but I was there when the action started."
Despite his tender years Breschel has plenty of experience when it comes to the Spring Classics. He finished 14th in the 2007 edition of Paris-Roubaix and the former male model knows that following advice from former Danish professionals, Rolf Sørensen and Lars Michaelsen, will help his development.
"It would have been good to get on the podium in Flanders but I see the result as another stepping stone to build on, and that one day I can win the race," he said.
Asked if Gent-Wevelgem and a likely sprint finish will suit him more than the relentless climbs that litter Flanders, Breschel gave an honest answer: "I don't think I'm fast enough to beat Tom Boonen or Mark Cavendish but I'll be hoping the race is hard, with lots of cross winds," he said. "Perhaps I can do something on the Kemmelberg and open the race there, but the harder the race, the better I will go."
Gent-Wevelgem aside, Paris-Roubaix is the race Breschel has dreamed of winning since his childhood and once again he'll have a free role. "I've had my chances in these races before and I've been in the mix," said Breschel. "I know Riis wants a lot of cards to play with and that's fine with me."
But the question remains whether Breschel's free role within the team could be compromised by Cancellera's return to form. "Fabian, I think, will be strong but for me this is the perfect team as I get my chances to do well and I can learn from guys like Fabian and Stuart O'Grady," he said. "It's good to have different options too. We're not as strong as Cervelo or Quick Step right now, so may be we'll back off a little and see what we can do from that position."
Before Flanders Breschel had struggled for form after crashing hard in Tirreno-Adriatico. The rider hurt his back and was forced to slow his Classics preparation. "I didn't really know how my condition was shaping up but now I know the form is right there," he said.