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Flanders Classics, the organisers of the Tour of Flanders, Gent-Wevelgem and most of the other major one-day semi-Classics in Flanders, kicked off their 2014 races yesterday with a presentation in Gent, hosted in part by former Classics riders Johan Museeuw, Juan Antonio Flecha and Ludo Dierckxsens.
"There are no races that can be compared with the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. After those races, with the the cobblestones and the climbs, you need to recover," Flecha said to Niewsblad.be. "For three or four days after the Ronde or the Hell of the North, you are a total loss."
The Spaniard, currently out of a job after the dissolution of the Vacansoleil-DCM team, reflected on his time with Team Sky, calling David Brailsford the best manager he'd ever worked with, and Sean Yates of Sky, and Giancarlo Ferretti the best coaches.
Flecha said that Sky's organisation was superior to other teams, putting riders into three groups for team camps, depending on their calendar and objectives, with the groups only overlapping for a day or two. "In Spanish and Italian teams, the training camp would be a long period with thirty riders at a time. The Sky training camp was much more functional."
While other teams would have nothing to do after their training rides and massages, Sky's riders were given more freedom because the trainers could follow their progress more scientifically. "They knew that you were going well or poorly without having to have you in the hotel on house arrest."
Flecha was on hand to present the 2014 Flanders Classics races, which begin on March 1 with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, which he won in 2010. Dwars door Vlaanderen (March 26) and Gent-Wevelgem (March 30) follow before the Tour of Flanders on April 6.
The six races are interrupted by the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, which runs from April 1-3, something that Flanders Classics managing director Gilbert Van Fraeyenhoven said would need to change.
"We need to establish a pattern," Van Fraeyenhoven said, adding that their races should run on Wednesday and Sunday. "Only in this way can we ensure the survival of the Flemish spring races." He suggested De Panne move to July.
De Panne organiser Bernard Van De Kerckhove disagreed, saying his race would hold tight to its position ahead of the Tour of Flanders.
"It is not Flanders Classics who sets the race calendar, it is the people of the UCI and the RLVB (Belgian Cycling Federation) who do," De Kerckhove said.
"Organizing the Driedaagse in July is impossible. That man is surely forgets that the coast is over crowded [in July], and it is simply impossible to hold a race at that time. The interest in our stage race is great. Applications from the teams are arriving. Our competition is an end in itself for many teams, and not merely seen as just a preparation for the Tour of Flanders."