Compared to their dominance at the Tour de France, Team Sky have been underwhelming in the Classics, with just one Monument win since their inception in 2010.
That could all be about to change with Ian Stannard given a central role in the team's spring leadership. Free from the shackles of his typical early season domestique duties, the 29-year-old explains how being more selfish could be the key to winning Paris-Roubaix.
Stannard was third in Roubaix twelve months ago, a result that was understandably overshadowed by Mat Hayman's dramatic and surprising win. However the result for the Team Sky rider solidified his position as a Classics contender after his two back-to-back wins at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in 2014 and 2015.
This year, Stannard's race programme remains relatively unchanged, except for one telling difference. Instead of being asked to slog his guts out for the GC arm of the team at Paris-Nice or Tirreno Adriatico he will be allowed to train in peace, away from the demands of protecting another Team Sky rider.
"Last year I did Paris-Nice and Geraint [Thomas] was leading so you're on the front everyday and going deeper than you want to trying to help him. I spent a lot of energy there so my idea is to try and be more relaxed and try and do what I need to do during that period," he told Cyclingnews at the Tour Down Under.
That trust from his employers is important to Stannard, who admits that at times he has difficulty switching mentality from worker to leader.
"I'm so used to that role of supporting people that when it comes to the Classics it's quite tough to switch that role around and be that guy hiding in the wheels trying to save energy. I find it hard to switch that way and be more selfish. It's easy to ride on the side of the peloton and take some wind, whereas relying on someone else I find quite hard sometimes. It's a different way of thinking."
Stannard's growing stature within the team isn't just centred on becoming more demanding. The British rider, like his teammate Luke Rowe, has taken time to mature into a one-day rider. Stannard admits that the last few years have been a learning curve, with mistakes made along the way, but that over time he has learnt how to handle the Classics – which take an entirely different frame of mind – let alone set of tactics – to race.
"Definitely for a one-day race you can't ride that on your power meter," he says when asked about the perception that Team Sky race to watts rather than tactics and intuition.
"You've got to feel the race and go with the front guys. You can't just set a tempo and ride to your watts. Having said that it's a bit of an image that Sky has been given. Even at the Tour you don't ride to your watts. You use them as a gauge but who doesn't? We don't sit there and stare at our power meters.
"But hopefully the team believe in us a bit and they're confident that we can do something. I think it takes time with the Classics as well. You really need to learn the roads, where to be and how to perform in them. It's not an easy thing to piece together but experience does pay when it comes to races like Roubaix and Flanders. We're slowly piecing it together and it's getting better. I'd like to improve on that result in Roubaix from last year."
Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.
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