As one of the most experienced riders on Sky's roster, Kurt-Asle Arvesen says he is ready to play a key role in the British team's first spring Classics campaign. Arvesen's credentials as a Classics rider were consolidated throughout his six season tenure at Saxo Bank.
Himself a winner of E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke in 2008, he was also a part of the team that helped Fabian Cancellara reach the top step of the Paris-Roubaix podium in 2006. He his hopeful he can play a similar supporting role at Sky this spring.
"For me, it's more or less the same role [as I had at Saxo Bank]," Arvesen told Cyclingnews at Sky's hotel in Kortrijk, Belgium. "We have riders like [Juan Antonio] Flecha and Edvald [Boasson Hagen], who, when they are good, are our leaders. My role is to back up them and try to keep the team together."
Arvesen got his first taste of Belgian roads for this year on Wednesday at Dwars door Vlaanderen, where he played an active role in Sky's efforts to control the peloton late in the race. It was a positive signal for the Norwegian, having made his return from broken collarbone just a fortnight earlier at Tirreno-Adriatico.
"I knew what I had to do, it was still pretty fresh in my memory after last year," said Arvesen, who exited the 2009 Tour de France with the same injury. "I wanted to come back as fast as possible, I love these Classics.
"Of course, when it was raining and snowing on the first days of Tirreno I was a bit nervous, but that was also because I was coming back to such a big race, where the other guys in the peloton have 10 to 15 races in their legs and I had just the seven kilometres I did in Qatar," he added.
Arvesen will start for Sky at Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, but will first contest the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke on Saturday. His victory at the latter race in 2008 was followed by a seventh place finish at the Tour of Flanders. It's a record that would see him installed as leader at many other teams, however, Arvesen holds no illusions about what will be expected of him this year.
"My form is not as good as it was in 2008, my ambition is to help the young guys," he said. "That's my main role, but we also have other guys with loads of experience. Especially Mathew Hayman, he knows these roads better than anyone else and he's a good road captain. Juan Antonio, he has so much experience too, and he's in good shape; he'll be ready for the big ones."
Arvesen is cautious about raising expectation of Sky emerging victorious at the monuments of Flanders and Roubaix. He pointed to established Classic squads, including his former-teammates, as those that ought to bear the banner of favouritism.
"It's not going to be easy to win Flanders or Roubaix, but we have guys who could do it on a really good day," he said. "But we need to look at the start list, we have some really good competitors. Teams like Quick Step and Saxo Bank are really strong now. Matti [Breschel] and Fabian [Cancellara] will be up there. [Tom] Boonen, obviously, and Stijn Devolder will be ready for Flanders. He's [Devolder] just been cruising around, but he is ready".
From strength to strength
Rather ominously for Sky's competitors, Arvesen predicts their strong debut in the professional peloton is merely a sign of things to come.
"I don't know these guys as well as I know the Saxo Bank guys, of course, because I had six years there with them. I think we need to give it [Team Sky] a little bit of time," he said.
"Actually, it's amazing all the success we've had so far this year already. I think we need a little bit more time to become even more of a unit and, in the future it's going to be a really strong team."