Luke Rowe believes that it’s only a matter of time before Team Sky win their first monument, and that it could be in 2016. Since 2010, the team have amassed victories in many of the year’s biggest races but success at one of the five major one-day races has remained elusive.
"Every year we say next year but it is only a matter of time. The riders are there and on any given day we can win a monument with a number of riders. It’s just waiting for that day for everything to come together and the stars to align," Rowe tells Cyclingnews. "We’re knocking on that door. Every year we’re winning a couple of classics which is no mean feat. I think it’s only a matter of time and hopefully it’s next year but if not then we’ll crack on."
Rowe, who has become an integral part of Sky’s Classics line-up, is speaking to Cyclingnews just days before he heads back off to Monaco to begin training for the 2016 season. The 25-year-old has been spending time at home with his family in Wales for the past month after finishing his season at the World Championships in Richmond at the end of September.
"I think we definitely rode the best that we’ve ever ridden," Rowe says of this year’s Classics campaign. "We rode on the front and we weren’t afraid to take them on."
The British team ended the spring with victories at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad with Ian Stannard and E3 Harelbeke with Geraint Thomas, who also took a podium place at the wind-battered Gent-Wevelgem. They went into both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix as race favourites and, although they missed out on top placing in both, Rowe pulled out a strong performance to give them eighth at Roubaix - a major milestone in his development and one that has given him a thirst for more.
"I would like to try and step it up another level in the Classics next year," says Rowe. "It’s hard to go into a race with Team Sky, with the Classics line-up that we’ve got - in Stannard and G [Thomas] - as a leader. But certainly in some of the smaller ones and the semi-classics, I’d like to go in as joint leader and have a chance there. That being said, I’m one of the first guys to put my hand up to help the boys and I don’t mind doing that. It would definitely be nice to have a go at the Classics and have a bit of a free rein and see what I can do."
The madness of the Tour
Another major event for Rowe was his debut at the Tour de France in July. The Welshman’s experience in the Classics no doubt came in handy during the challenging first week. The riders were put through the ringer but Rowe made it through to Paris and was able to cross the line as part of the race-winning team, arm in arm with his teammates.
"It was insane. It was everything that I expected it was. It was bigger, bolder, more people, more in your face, more hectic," he says. "It was incredible, though, and to go there for your first Grand Tour and to be in that team with such a bunch of good mates and superstars on the bike and then for Froomey to go on and win it, it’s something that I’ll never forget for the rest of my life.
"Coming into Paris, going past the Eifel Tower and then onto the Champs Elysées was one of those goosebump moments. Even now I still get excited and think back to what a special day it was. It is something that I’ll never forget and then there was the after party on the bus and that was something else. It was a pretty special three weeks."
The post-race celebrations didn’t go completely to plan, however, after Rowe ended up having a five-day stint in a Berlin hospital during Thomas’ stag do. "It was nothing drink related," he is quick to point out. The unexpected lay-off was as a result of an infected cut on his foot. Fortunately, it didn’t hamper his season too much and he was able to line-up at the World Championships.
Rowe’s performances this season must have impressed the team and he signed an extension that will see him remain there until 2018. "It’s just feels a bit like home," he says of Sky, where he has been with the team turning professional in 2012. "It’s a great environment to be in, I’ve got a lot of mates there and I’m really looked after within the team. There’s nothing that I want and I don’t have. My programme is exactly how I want it. I work with Rod Ellingworth and he’s incredible. There’s nothing I’m missing out on. It’s everything I want."
For now, Rowe's thoughts are on the immediate future and the 2016 season. His race programme is yet to be set down but he is already certain of what he wants: more of the same. “Personally it would be great to do copy and past next year but just at a slightly higher level,” he tells Cyclingnews.
"I’d like to have a big hit out at the Classics and try and be there for the boys and maybe go for a result myself. Then after that, a bit of a momentum switch and be at the Tour de France after that. Hopefully Froomey can bring it home again. Then the difference with next year is that the Worlds really suit GB with them being in Qatar - that would be a third goal."
"Luke Rowe is partner of Rowe & King Coaching and an ambassador for the Dragon Ride. The 2016 Dragon Ride takes place on Sunday 5 June in South Wales. www.dragonride.co.uk"