Bradley Wiggins (Sky) will miss out on two Belgian classics originally planned as part of his Paris-Roubaix preparation in favour of more stage racing this spring, as the Englishman will tackle the Volta a Catalunya from March 24-30.
Wiggins had initially aimed to race Dwars door Vlaanderen on March 26 and Gent-Wevelgem on March 30, but his cobbled Classics campaign has now been cut back to the Scheldeprijs (April 9) and Paris-Roubaix (April 13). Currently taking part in the Ruta del Sol after kicking off his season at the Mallorca Challenge, Wiggins will still take part in Tirreno-Adriatico alongside Chris Froome before heading back to Spain.
In last year’s Volta a Catalunya, Wiggins raced prominently in the first half of the race, launching a strong downhill attack on the opening stage to Calella that split the field apart and taking fourth on the first major mountain stage two days later to Vallter 2000, both finishes which again feature in this year’s race. He finished fifth overall behind winner Dan Martin.
“I was quite happy with how it worked out in Catalonia [in 2013], I just needed a time trial there, I was only off the pace a little bit by [the race finish in] Barcelona, and with a time trial I’d have been in with a shout,” Wiggins told Cyclingnews.
While Wiggins’ exposure to the cobbles ahead of Paris-Roubaix is now limited to the sections at Scheldeprijs, he explained that the decision to race in Catalonia was taken with the Hell of the North in mind.
“I felt like I needed a bit more stage racing to get up to full speed for Paris-Roubaix, and then on for [the Tour of] California,” said Wiggins, who has made the American stage race the second big goal of the first half of his season.
Wiggins has raced Paris-Roubaix just once since signing for Sky, finishing 90th in 2011. His best finish in the race was in 2009, when he reached the velodrome in 25th place.
Speaking to reporters in Qatar last week, defending champion Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) warned that it would be a tall order for a rider used to targeting grand tours to make an impact on the pavé. “With Tour de France weight you’re not going to go anywhere," he said. "It’s everyone’s choice.”