Greg Henderson is confident he can continue his successful season at Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday. The race will be the New Zealander's last major one-day race before he targets a stage win at the Giro d'Italia.
The Sky sprinter has made a rapid recovery from a crash at last week's Milan-San Remo, which resulted in seven stitches to his left knee. He finished in the midst of the peloton at Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday, but pointed to it as a signal he will be ready for Sunday's 219 kilometre race to Wevelgem.
"The doc stitched me up and said to rest it, so [Dwars door Vlaanderen] was a test basically," Henderson told Cyclingnews at his team hotel in Kortrijk, Belgium. "The injury was where the tendons all attach, but I got through the race with no problems so I'm really happy.
"I think I'm one of the protected riders here, for sure. Today I had great legs it was just a little big of bad luck on one of the climbs. I'm obviously not as strong as [race winner Matti] Breschel (Saxo Bank) was, but I think I'll get better as the week goes on and my knee improves. Gent-Wevelgem is a race I think I can do well in."
Although confident about his own ability to perform on Sunday, Henderson knows he will enter the race as part of a Sky team that boasts several riders who could excel, including defending champion Edvald Boasson Hagen. He freely admits that the spring's races present challenges that lend themselves to a multi-pronged approach.
"The thing about these races is there are guys in the peloton that have done them so many times. I was talking to [Juan Antonio] Flecha about it and he said 'I just know when to accelerate, when I'll turn left, I know the climb, when it gets steep' and Mat Hayman's the same.
"So much of it has to do with knowing the race and positioning; using energy to get into position before you actually go up the climb."
Selective schedule bears fruit
Henderson has played a major role in Sky's impressive introduction to the peloton, and carries the distinction of being the team's first ever race winner after his victory in the Tour Down Under's prelude, the Cancer Council Classic.
His success in Australia was the followed by a stage victory on the opening stage of Paris-Nice, earlier this month. Henderson is particularly satisfied with the spate of early-season success, which comes off the back of some careful pre-season planning.
"I sat down with the team's psychologist, Steve Peters, at the start of the season," said Henderson. "I explained to him what I wanted to do and he said 'woah, you can't – physically or mentally – go for everything'. So I've been a little more selective and it's worked out perfectly for me so far."
The only hiccup in Henderson's season pre-season plan was his 96th place result at Milan-San Remo. The event had also been a target, but his plans were foiled his untimely crash.
"In Milan-San Remo I just ended up having to do too much work chasing to get back to the front. By the time I got to the front the peloton was going full gas up the Cipressa and I'd already used so much energy."
Henderson's next major objective will be a stage win at the Giro d'Italia. After Gent-Wevelgem he will head to the Tour of Romandie as a final tune-up for the first Grand Tour of the year. Henderson said he is ready to go shoulder-to-shoulder with his rivals in the race's sprint finales.
"I think I'll have some support [at the Giro], but it goes without saying that if I'm not up on a day then the roles change straight away. That's the beauty of our team."