With Team Sky on the back foot in its bid to defend Chris Froome's Herald Sun Tour title, Luke Rowe expects nothing less than an aggressive showing from the team across the final three stages of the race to upset race leader Damien Howson and his Orica-Scott team.
After the queen stage of the Australian race which saw the peloton ascend the 29km climb up Falls Creek, Froome crossed the line in sixth to end the day fifth on general classification, 1:12 minutes in arrears to race leader Howson. Along with Froome, Sky has a second card to play on GC with Kenny Elissonde sitting third, 53-seconds down on Howson.
"We just have to race aggressively, any opportunity there is to race aggressively we have to take it," Rowe told Cyclingnews as he signed on for stage 2. "Whether it be on a climb, if there is a bit of wind, or just try and race any opportunity that is available to us. It is going to be a tall order. Damien Howson is a classy rider. In a way, it is nice to see as he's a loyal domestique and he works all year. It is nice to see a guy like him get rewarded and take the jersey but we have to throw everything at them. It is going to be tough."
With Stage 2 from Mt Beauty to Beechworth over 165.6km featuring the addition of the Stanley climb late in the day, the little 5km kicker comes 19.5km before the finish and could well provide the setting for a Sky ambush on Orica-Scott.
"I have looked at the profile and it's a tough climb. For sure, there could be fireworks there and a lot of guys will try and make something happen but I have no idea of any roads around here," an honest Rowe said of his knowledge of the parcours.
At any other race, Sky would be solely focused on the general classification with Froome but at an early-season event like the UCI 2.1 Herald Sun Tour, the team can indulge in the dual ambitions of stage wins and overall victory.
"It is a cool race in that sense because it is not the biggest bike race that we do, that being said without any disrespect or anything you know, we can come here and have a bit of fun and roll the dice. Certainly, if it was a bigger race it would just be sole focus on the GC but we'll go all in for Danny on stage 3," he said of the team's Dutch sprinter Danny van Poppel who took out the prologue Wednesday night.
A five-year WorldTour professional with four grand tours and 11 monuments under his belt, Rowe added that it's the 'smaller' races such as the Herald Sun Tour from which he derives the greatest satisfaction.
"I love it. I absolutely love it. They are the most enjoyable races to do. You're rolling around in a campervan as opposed to a bus," added Rowe who was on hand for Froome's 2015 and 2016 Tour de France victories. "It's like lads on tour, it's good craic. The pressure doesn't really get to me in the bigger races anyway, you just get on with it but it's definitely low pressure and you just go out there and have fun. If you win, then great, if you don't, then great. You just go with it."
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