VN: After losing Julian Dean as your lead-out man, how has it been working out with the new train?
TF: They’ve been going really good. The lead-outs they did this week are really good. Robbie (Hunter) is flying right now. We have a really strong train. It’s up to me to do a bit better in the sprints themselves and finish off the deal. Hunter’s been great, so far in Qatar and Oman, and here. I think the recipe is really good. It’s up to me now to step up a little for the final 200m.
VN: Up next is Milan-San Remo, the ‘sprinter’s classic,’ but hardly easy, what are you expectations?
TF: I’ve never made it to the finish in San Remo in the front group. Who knows, maybe this will be the year. Basically, we have Heinrich (Haussler) he’s proven at San Remo. He’s been second there. I am sure he will be our No. 1 rider and we’ll see how the race unfolds with me. I would love to make it, but the question for me is to get over the Cipressa and the Poggio. That’s the first step.
VN: How does Marnie climb change the race?
TF: It’s hard. I think it’s changed the dynamic of the race quite a bit. Before, you rolled over the Turchino, it wasn’t that hard, then you had a really strong stretch until the ‘capos’ when you were just cruising on the coast. You hit the Marnie after 200km, that’s a nasty climb. I think it takes a little bit out of the sprinter’s legs.
VN: You’re more tailored for the northern classics, but is San Remo a special race for you?
TF: Oh yeah, it’s one of the monuments. Of course, everyone’s motivated. I’d love to do well there. It’s also good for the Belgian classics just to have 300km in your legs like that. A week later, when you’re at Gent-Wevelgem, when it’s 230km, it doesn’t seem so bad.
VN: Who have you seen this week who looks strong for San Remo?
TF: Sagan. I think he’s the favorite, just looking at the way he’s riding here this week. He climbs with the front group most days and then he’s right in the mix in the field sprints as well. He’s been quite impressive.
VN: What are the top targets for you in the Belgian classics?
TF: I’ll ride everything except for Harelbeke. There are one-day races, so you can target each one and come in fresh. Personally, Gent-Wevelgem means a lot to me. Scheldeprijs as well. I will ride them all and help support the team at Flanders and Roubaix to try to put someone on the podium.
VN: What’s the buzz inside the Garmin bus going into the classics?
TF: I think it’s good. With Sep (Vanmarcke) winning the Omloop a couple of weeks ago, that was a really good morale boost. That got our classics campaign off to the right start. Everyone got through Paris-Nice fairly healthy. We lost Ramunas to a broken collarbone a few days ago, which is a pretty big bummer. Other than that, everyone else got through this week healthy and intact. Hopefully, that’s a good sign for the big races to come.
VN: Garmin always seems to pop a nice surprise in the classics, and a huge win last year at Roubaix, one more time?
TF: Hopefully we can do something good. We have a very strong team, with a lot of guys who are capable of big results in the spring classics. I hope we can do it.
VN: Do you still dream someday of winning a race like Roubaix or Flanders?
TF: Of course, you always dream. Realistically, with the new Flanders course, it’s quite a bit harder. On the older course, I’ve had some good results. I don’t see that happening, at least at this point of my career, on the new course. It’s really difficult. We’ll see. Maybe I can do a good Roubaix and help Summi (Johan Vansummeren) do a repeat.