OUDENAARDE, Belgium (AFP) — Welsh rider Geraint Thomas said he is happy to help Sky teammates Bradley Wiggins and Edvald Boasson Hagen at next week’s Paris-Roubaix, despite finishing an impressive eighth at the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders).
Having finished third at E3 Harelbeke 10 days ago and 10th in Flanders three years ago, the double Olympic track cycling champion showed he is in good form on the cobbles.
Despite hurting his back in a crash Sunday, he climbed back onto the bike and kept up with the favorites until the last 15 kilometers, when he found himself in a fight for the minor placings.
He had come into the race as an outside bet for the win but despite not quite matching that expectation, he is happy to take a backseat at Sunday’s “Hell of the North” race and take his turn working for others.
“I’m happy to ride for the team, I’ve said it all winter. I’m happy to ride for [Ian] Stannard or Edvald. Obviously Stannard’s not starting [due to a fractured vertebrae] so now I’m happy to commit 100 percent to Eddy and do my bit for him,” said Thomas, who briefly forgot 2012 Tour de France winner Wiggins.
“Obviously Brad’s got some great form, he’s physically one of the strongest in the race. Positional-wise he was there (in Flanders, where he finished 32nd, 1:43 back). He did a great job for the boys.
“Roubaix probably suits him even a bit more. Edvald, him, Bernie’s [Bernhard Eisel] good, it suits Luke [Rowe] a bit more than this as well. I think we’ve got a good team and we can get stuck into that.”
As for his own performance in Belgium, Thomas said he had to be happy given how he felt after crashing.
“I was feeling my back all day. I felt terrible all day but managed to just hang in there, it’s just frustrating,” he said. “I think I can still be happy with how it went considering how I felt because I didn’t feel anywhere near half as good as I did last Friday in E3. But I managed to just hang in there.
“My back is just real stiff and sore now; just the left side of it. From the bike it’s one of the places you don’t want to be weak because it’s one of the places you feel it.”
Thomas, who was also a three-time world champion on the track, had nothing but admiration for Flanders winner Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing), although he believes Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin), who finished third, will also be one to watch at Paris-Roubaix.
Swiss rider Cancellara, known as “Spartacus” by his peers, won the event for the third time to equal the all-time wins record, and Sunday will he be going for his second Flanders-Roubaix double.
“He’s obviously the strongest guy here and to be able to follow him you’ve got to be good,” said Thomas.
“I don’t think he was as dominant as he was before but he’s obviously the strongest and for Sep to follow him [when Cancellara attacked on the Kwaremont climb] shows he’s got really good form and shows he’ll be in there next week.”