Geraint Thomas rolled out of Bruges’ Markt Square at 9:50 today, starting the 262-kilometre Tour of Flanders in support of Sky’s team leader Juan Antonio Flecha.
“I’ve got to try to be with him on the crucial parts: the Kwaremont, the Paterberg and the Koppenberg,” Thomas told Cycling Weekly. “On those climbs the team car will be quite far behind so I will need to be there and support him if he needs anything.
“After that, I will try to stay with him as long as I can and see what happens.”
It is Thomas’ first time to race the Tour of Flanders, but he got a taste of the ‘Little Flanders’ last Saturday, the E3 Prijs. He closed the advantage of Tom Boonen on the Taaienberg and Paterberg climbs, helping Flecha eventually ride free for third place.
Thomas won the junior Paris-Roubaix in 2004 and he appears to be making a successful jump to the professional cobbled classics. Today he will face the Taaienberg, the Paterberg and 13 other climbs, many cobbled, in the race to Meerbeke.
“They are the same cobbles, but now [as senior professionals] we just go over them quite a bit faster. I really enjoyed last weekend and learnt a lot. I am looking forward to today. It is going to be pretty special.”
“He’s won the junior Paris-Roubaix and he is handling himself well in the professional ranks on the cobbles,” said Sky’s sports director, Scott Sunderland.
“He’ll be very important to use today. He will need to be with Flecha after the Koppenberg, saving himself for those moments. That’s the goal for him today.”
Ian Stannard is the other Brit on Team Sky’s eight-man team. He will work with Thomas today for the team win, though he battled him for the Roubaix win in 2004, finishing second.