Team Sky will start the Volta a Catalunya with Geraint Thomas as their leader, team management says. Chris Froome, taking part in his first race in the European calendar this year, will be acting as a second option alongside Mikel Landa.
Froome rode well in Catalunya last year, losing minimal amounts of time and finishing eighth, whilst Geraint Thomas, who had crashed in Milan-San Remo just a couple of days before, was a DNS after four stages. Froome also took sixth overall in 2014.
However, Team Sky are hoping that after Thomas' strong ride in Tirreno-Adriatico, where he finished fifth despite a tumultuous first stage due to a series of problems with their wheels, the Welshman will shine again in Catalunya.
"The team are doing very well, we had some excellent results recently, even if we couldn't do what we wanted in Tirreno," Nico Portal, Sky's sports director in the Volta, told Cyclingnews at the stage one start in Calella. The team recently racked up wins in Milan-San Remo with Michal Kwiatkowski and in Paris-Nice with Sergio Henao.
"G is clearly our number one here, it's Froomey's first race here in Europe and this isn't a race which always suits him," Portal said. In 2015, Froome was in the process of recovering from an earlier illness whilst riding Catalunya and finished 71st overall.
"G lost a good opportunity to do something in Tirreno, even if it would have been very difficult against Quintana, and here, let's see what happens with the team time trial, and then G can see what he can do, with the support of Froome and Mikel Landa."
However, Froome and Landa will also have key roles to play, Portal says. "So we have those two as well, hopefully, close on GC, and they are two more important options as well. [It is] much better to have three riders to play with, you never know, Geraint might have some kind of problem and then Froomey could be going really strongly."
"The important thing is we have a very strong group, a good working atmosphere and that makes it easier."
The team went, as did many other squads, to check out Tuesday's team time trial, which Portal regards as crucial to Catalunya's overall outcome. "We looked at it yesterday [Sunday], it's very technical because the first part is fast, but there are a lot of curves, too, it's very technical in the first part. The good thing is that the road surfaces are good, just a few bumps but not many."
"It's going to be tricky to change the order of the team there, for riders to swing off once there once they've done their turn. You'll have to control the order and the speed very closely. It's going to be about consistency, all the way through."
Portal recognises that for him and for Team Sky - as for all the teams - the sheer length of the team time trial represents a voyage in the dark. "Personally, I've never done such a long TTT. I was here in 2007 [the last team time trial in Catalunya - Ed.] when we won [as Movistar] and Erviti got the lead. But as a director, in a stage race, rather than a one-day event like the Worlds', a TTT this length is new."
As for the question of which wheels they'll use, Portal says that rather than the type they had in Tirreno, they will be using a different, earlier version - hopefully with a very different result.
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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