The Olympic champion broke his ankle in mid-November whilst mountain biking, and underwent successful surgery. This cost him four weeks of training, he told sporza.be, and he only stopped using his crutches a few days before Christmas.
"I think I could have done it a week earlier, but I didn’t want to take any risks," he said. "The last few weeks I'm full in training. I feel that the condition is coming fast. This season I was forced to learn what it is to start later and rest more. How I address this next winter depends on how I do this spring.”
One difference for the Belgian in the Classics this year is that he will be the team’s sole leader, having previously shared duties with Philippe Gilbert. Not that this was a problem, he said. “The last two or three years we rode well together.
"Okay, it was not always easy to stand at the start with two winners and outspoken leaders. The only advantage will be that in the Amstel Gold Race I can now ride for myself and must not sacrifice myself for others.
"My biggest competitor is Sagan, but I am certainly not afraid of him. I beat him a few times and he beat me too. I'm just as strong [as he is]. If we are together at a race it is fifty-fifty. But I gladly race against him. Like me, he rides open and attacking "
Other competitors include “[Alexander] Kristoff, [Tom] Boonen and [John] Degenkolb. Fast men who have a Classics victory in their legs. From the other Belgians I expect especially [Sep] Vanmarcke and [Tiesj] Benoot."