British champion Geraint Thomas has abandoned the conservative stereotype and backed himself for the Tour of Flanders this Sunday.
By
Sophie Smith

7 Apr 2015 - 5:20 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:35 PM

The leaner, older and more experienced racer is considered among the favourites for the 260km Monument and will lead a Sky team purring from recent successes on the cobbles and beyond.

Watch the Tour of Flanders live on SBS from 2230 AEST Sunday 5 April on SBS2.

"The last couple of races have done my confidence the world of good and we've got a strong team as well to support me through that," Thomas told Cycling Central from Belgium. "I think we've got as good a chance as ever to get a good result there."

The 28-year-old recovered from a crash to place third, as one of only 39 finishers, at a severely weather-affected Gent-Wevelgem last week having celebrated a solo victory at E3-Harelbeke two days prior. He attributes a range of factors to his winning form but has also taken something from being a front-runner this spring.

"Getting stuck into the racing, being able to be in the front in the finals, I've been buzzing off that really," he said. "I think just the roads as well, I really feel like I know them a lot better now after the last few years. I've done plenty of recons and plenty of races around here now and that definitely helps, knowing where you are in the race and what you've got coming up.

"I'm a bit more consistent with my weight," he added. "I think confidence and belief wise as well, and also just being another year stronger and, you know, motivated for this spring, for Paris-Nice and for the classics. I had a real good winter, a good solid block, and it's starting to really pay off now."

Sky has established a core group and set training precedents in its years-long and well documented campaign to win a big classic, which it is in a position to finally realise. A change in tack with regards to leadership may go some way in that too. The outfit has not previously favoured naming just one protected rider for races like Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, despite suggestions.

"It definitely feels like there is momentum in the team, you know, we're on a bit of a roll," Thomas said referring to collective results from Richie Porte's stage title victories at Paris-Nice and Volta a Catalunya to Ian Stannard's Het Nieuwsblad triumph.

"Everybody is feeling good and looking forward to racing. We're in the best sort of condition we've been really going into the classics and hopefully, barring any incidents, we can come out with something from Flanders from myself, or, if not, from Roubaix with me, Stannard or Brad (Wiggins). That's the plan."

Fabian Cancellara (Trek), who won Flanders last year, and Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep) have both been sidelined due to injury. The absence of the revered rivals, for whom the cobbles are season pinnacle, could level the playing field.

"There's a lot of good, young guys coming through," Thomas said. "I think it's definitely going to be an open race."

The Tour of Flanders will be live for Eastern states, South Australia and the
Northern Territory. Western Australia can view the race live online here
at Cycling Central.