Juan Antonio Flecha spearheads Team Sky’s squad for the forthcoming Northern Classics after the British WorldTour squad named their race line-ups for April.
Flecha has previously finished second, third (twice), fourth, sixth and ninth in Paris-Roubaix and began the Classics season in strong form, claiming third in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad at the end of February.
Flecha’s campaign was derailed, however, when the Spaniard fractured his hand in a training accident – but the 34-year-old returns to the peloton for the Tour of Flanders on Sunday (April 1), before targetting the Queen of the Classics a week later.
“I don’t think I will be at my peak condition at Flanders, but I will still give it my all,” said Flecha, who finished third in the race in 2010. “Then by the time Roubaix comes around, I’ll be back to my best and able to give it a really good go.”
Sky will take the same eight-man team to both races with Bernhard Eisel, who finished seventh in Paris-Roubaix last year, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Mathew Hayman, Jeremy Hunt, Christian Knees, Ian Stannard and Chris Sutton all set to figure.
In between, the squad will also contest Scheldeprijs (April 4), although there’s no room in the line-up for Mark Cavendish, who claimed his first professional win at the semi-Classic in 2007, before going on to claim repeat victories in 2008 and 2011.
The team will then turn their attentions to the Ardennes Classics, with Welsh neo-pro Luke Rowe, who finished fifth in the under-23 Tour of Flanders in 2010, Boasson Hagen, Hayman, Sergio Henao, Thomas Löfkvist, Lars-Petter Nordhaug, Salvatore Puccio and Xabier Zandio in the line-up for the Amstel Gold Race.
Boasson Hagen, who won a stage of Tirreno-Adriatico earlier this month, and Hayman will then be replaced by Davide Appollonio and Rigoberto Urán for La Fleche Wallone and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
When the Classics season is done and dusted, stage races will return to the race calendar – and Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins will end April by making their first appearance together in Sky colours at the Tour de Romandie.
Chris Froome, Jeremy Hunt, Danny Pate, Richie Porte, Michael Rogers and Kanstantsin Siutsou will also ride the six-day race, won in 2011 by Cadel Evans, who went on to claim the Tour de France title.
See Team Sky’s full race line-up for April here.