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A custom stars-and-stripes machine for the triple national champion
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A dejected Geraint Thomas finishes the stage
Sky rests riders after tough Milan-San Remo
Sky will take to the start line at Wednesday's Dwars door Vlaanderen with only six of the eight riders that they are allowed. The team has chosen to rest Geraint Thomas and Bernhard Eisel so that they are at their best for E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem later this week. Sky is not the only team resting Milan-San Remo riders with BMC starting with seven and MTN-Qhubeka only starting with five riders.
"They've done a lot of racing before and they want to be ready for Harelbeke and Wevelgem, so we made the choice to give them more rest so they can be ready," Sky directeur sportif Servais Knaven told Cyclingnews. "It's always a hard call, but after the hard San Remo on Sunday they needed a little time to recover."
Thomas is recovering from a crash that he suffered at Paris-Nice 10 days ago. The Welshman had been riding well and was sitting in second place in the general classification when he crashed on the final descent of the penultimate stage. Thomas was able to finish the stage, but decided to abandon the race. He rode San Remo this past Sunday, but abandoned before the finish.
Knaven says that Thomas is still feeling the after effects of the big crash, but is confident that he will be ready for the weekend. "Of course he still feels it a little bit, but he was going very well in San Remo. He got really cold and stopped in the second feed zone. He didn't lose a lot of his condition and now he has a few more days to recover. He should be ready for Friday."
Sky has often struggled to get results on the cobbles, but had some solid results last year at the hands of Ian Stannard and Thomas. Stannard, who is among the six riders starting tomorrow, kicked off Sky's Classics campaign with victory at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Ben Swift also gave a big boost to the team with a podium at Sunday's Milan-San Remo. The team is hoping that they capitalise on both of these in the week ahead.
"The morale is good, we won Nieuwsblad and we worked really well as a team," said Knaven. "Everybody should be a bit better than three weeks ago but that is for most of the peloton and hopefully we are on the same level compared to the others and that we are there in the final. It's hard to say who's going to win the bike race, but the aim is to go into the final and have a good chance to win one of the five or six races coming up."
Sky will be without one of its main riders in Bradley Wiggins. The 2012 Tour de France winner was supposed to be riding this week but was switched to the Volta a Catalunya squad and was eventually removed from competition to concentrate on a two-week training block. Wiggins is looking to challenge for victory at Paris-Roubaix, but will only race at Scheldeprijs before then. Knaven doesn't think that the lack of cobble racing will be a problem and that the training block is the right thing to do.
"He's really strong and he was going really well in Tirreno, but he still needs an extra bit of training to get his best form. That's why he chose not to race in this period and do a good training block and come back in Scheldeprijs and Roubaix," Knaven told Cyclingnews. "Some guys need the feeling of the cobbles and others don't. The most important thing is that you're in good shape and that is what Brad is working on at the moment. It is the last five or 10 percent extra that he needs and not just for Roubaix, but for California after that."