Team Sky's slim-line Classics squad will be headed up by Elia Viviani and Michal Kwiatkowski at Milan-San Remo, with Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe playing support roles until the campaign reaches Belgium.
With Geraint Thomas forgoing the entire Classics season, and Kwiatkowski not racing the Belgian segment of the spring, the British team head to Italy with two cards to play in the opening Monument of the season in Viviani and former world champion Kwiatkowski.
"Viviani can hopefully hang in there and produce a sprint. Then we have Kwiatkowski, who is a bit of a joker card, and we saw last year how strong he was. Hopefully he can spice the race up," Rowe told Cyclingnews.
"From then on, it's me and Stannard as Thomas and Kwiatkowski have chosen not to race any other classics. It'll be me and Ian with joint leadership for the remaining four Classics."
Rowe, who recently finished sixth in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and third in Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne, completed Paris-Nice on Sunday, helping teammate Sergio Henao claim the overall title. The emphasis now shifts towards the Classics, and after Kwiatkowski's win in Strade Bianche, the British team is brimming with confidence. Even off-the bike reports surrounding an on going UKAD investigation into the team hasn't disrupted their winning pattern.
"We don't do De Panne and we miss Dwars door Vlaanderen. So for me, it's San Remo, E3 Harelbeke, Gent Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders Scheldeprijs and Paris-Roubaix. We don't do Dwars door Vlaanderen. We don't have the biggest roster of Classics riders. We're a nine-man band and with that many one-day races in an eight-day period, it puts a bit of a stress on the Classics squad."
Rowe has taken the added responsibility as a Classics leader in his stride. The 27-year-old finished fifth in Flanders last year, while Stannard made the Paris-Roubaix podium. While Stannard skipped both Paris-Nice and Tirreno Adriatico, Rowe used the 'Race to the Sun' to fine-tune his form.
"For me, Paris-Nice has been the perfect preparation. The first few days with the weather thrown into the mix were so tough. We had that brutal Classics, crosswind style of racing and you can't get better preparation. Stannard is in Mallorca and he's just trying something new. He's spicing things up a little bit with his training," Rowe said on the final day of Paris-Nice
"Being here and working for Sergio has certainly helped. Paris-Nice is about getting a big block in, working hard and building up some fatigue. Then all I do after this is race and rest. It increases the workload when you're riding for Sergio, you can see that from when we're riding in the wind and sitting on the front. The massive week here sets me up better for the Classics. It's also good for the morale, having a purpose here with the yellow jersey."
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