Bradley Wiggins survived the opening day of the Driedaagse De Panne and remains on course for Friday’s individual time trial and a bid for the overall but with one eye on the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix the former Tour de France winner’s primary goal is fine-tune his form ahead of the two cobbled Monuments.
Wiggins was meant to line up for last weeks E3 Harelbeke but he was taken out of the team as a precaution after falling ill. He, like the majority of the field, then failed to finish Gent-Wevelgem, leaving him short of recent race miles in Belgian.
De Panne was already on his schedule coming into the Classics campaign but the three-day event has become more significant in the British rider’s preparation in recent days.
"I’ve never seen anything like that," he told reporters when reflecting on the windy conditions at Gent-Wevelgem that saw only 39 riders finish.
"Those winds were incredible but it is what it is and I need these days for Roubaix."
Wiggins was often at the front of the peloton during the opening stage in De Panne and although he finished 40 seconds behind winner Alexandre Kristoff he remains on course for Friday’s individual time trial. Rod Ellingworth, who linked up with Team Sky’s classics contingent after Gent-Wevelgem believes that the team are still reaping the rewards from a confidence-boosting win in E3 Harelbeke.
The team as a whole have stepped up in recent weeks and despite uncertainty over the fitness of Ian Stannard due his fall in Milan-San Remo, Geraint Thomas and Luke Rowe have enjoyed their best springs to date.
"At these races you’ve really got to take it race by race. Look at what has happened with Boonen, Cancellara and Van Avermaet. You can make all the plans in the world but we’ll stick to our game and take the best eight riders we’ve got," Ellingworth told Cyclingnews.
"We’ll have a clear plan for both Flanders and Roubaix and we’ve kept our energy and outlook up throughout the last few weeks. We’re in the best place we’ve ever been as a Classics team and who knows where that will take it."
Wiggins’ role for the Tour of Flanders remains uncertain but it’s likely that the team will focus their energy in the protection of Thomas with Wiggins becoming more of a focal point for Paris-Roubaix – his final race in a Team Sky jersey.
"He was poorly and didn’t do E3 and then on Sunday it’s difficult to say how he was going. Eisel pointed out to us on the bus that most of the top ten in Gent-Wevelgem crashed at least once so it’s hard to tell how people are going," Ellingworth told Cyclingnews.
"There’s an ideal programme for everyone but how often do you get to take the ideal path all the way through? You almost always have to divert off but he’s been riding coming into this race but only 39 riders finished Gent-Wevelgem but he’s wanted to race De Panne and keep this week as busy as possible."