Team Sky's Dylan van Baarle will make a return to the Belgian Classics at the Dwars door Vlaanderen one-day race in Belgium on Wednesday – a month to the day since breaking his hand at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
The Dutchman made a return to racing at the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali stage race in Italy last week – a race where the roads are considerably less severe than the famous cobbles of northern Europe.
"When we were in the hospital and the doctor told me my hand was broken, in the back of my mind I was still thinking, 'Ah, maybe I can make it for Flanders,'" said Van Baarle on his team's website.
"But I knew that, normally, if your hand is broken it should be at least six weeks out.
"Thankfully, everything has gone really well. The surgeon did a really good job, and it was because of him that I was back on the bike and back racing so quickly," said the 26-year-old.
Van Baarle still managed to finish the Omloop – in 14th place – and then finished sixth overall at Coppi e Bartali.
"Before Coppi e Bartali, I didn't know what to expect. Of course, I'd done a few big training rides, but I was still unsure how I'd feel in the race and racing on any rough roads," Van Baarle said. "But it went really well. The legs felt pretty good. I didn't expect to be with the top guys, so I was happy with sixth on the GC."
He hopes to carry what is clearly good form, despite his enforced break from racing in March, into Wednesday's race, and then on to Sunday's Tour of Flanders, where Van Baarle was 12th in 2018 and fourth in 2017, confirming his Classics credentials.
"Of course, breaking something doesn't help your condition," he said. "But I don't think my condition has gone away, and it's good to be mentally fresh for this period, so we'll see. I'll race with the same mindset as I would have done without the hand injury.
"The legs feel good, the body feels good, my weight is good. I feel in a better place than last year."
Van Baarle joined Team Sky ahead of the 2018 season from Cannondale-Drapac (now EF Education First), and, although he believes he was still finding his feet a little last year, he now feels as though he's part of the furniture – as he proved with his overall victory at the Herald Sun Tour in Australia in February.
"I was searching a little bit last year," he admitted. "There was new material to get used to, new staff, and you also want to show what you can do, so maybe it was a little too much. Now I really feel at home and comfortable within the team, and I hope that's shown so far this season.
"I now just want to get that 'Belgian feeling' again. I've missed the last three races here," he said, referring to the Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne, the E3 BinckBank Classic and Gent-Wevelgem.
"I feel confident, and hope that the hand will work with the legs."
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