Juan Antonio Flecha takes aim at the Classics once more
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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Juan Antonio Flecha takes aim at the Classics once more

by Ben Atkins at 12:40 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Flanders
Team Sky’s spring captain preparing for his thirteenth season in the pro-peloton

juan antonio flechaTeam Sky’s Classics captain Juan Antonio Flecha is preparing himself for yet another season at the top level of the pro peloton. The 34-year-old Argentine-born Spaniard turned professional with Relax-Fuenlabrada way back in 2000 but, after signing for Banesto in 2002, has been in first division teams ever since.

Unsurprisingly, for a rider with a victory in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, three podium finishes in Paris-Roubaix, and one in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Flecha’s season will be built around those races as usual.

“For me there is always a focus on the Spring Classics, especially Flanders and Roubaix and you have to start in really good shape if you want to be strong there,” he told Team Sky’s website from the team’s Mallorca training camp.

“For the first part of the season they are my main goals. Later will come the Tour de France and I hope to make the team for the Tour. There are also some big races after the Tour but these are the long-term goals. Right now I need to be thinking about my first goal and that is most definitely the Classics.”

When Team Sky was first formed in 2010, Flecha was the outstanding Classics rider, but as many of its riders develop – and with the acquisition of some new names – he will not be alone as he faces the cobbles of 2012.

“The team is getting better and better in the Classics,” he said. “There are some new guys coming in like Bernhard Eisel [from HTC-Highroad – ed], but if you look at young guys like [Ian] Stannard and G [Geraint Thomas] they are getting better and better too. There is a natural improvement of the young talents; they are consistent and solid and I have no doubt that they will be good in the Classics.

“Helping these guys is a big part of my role,” he explained. “You always try to teach the young riders; whether it is things that I know, little secrets or bits of advice. I think for them it’s also nice to have guys with experience in the team so they can go to races and have someone there who has done it before and it can give them confidence.”

The route of the 2012 Ronde van Vlaanderen will look very different to that of every other race that the current Classics generation is familiar with. The finish has been moved from Meerbeke, where it has been since 1973, to Oudenaarde, and the course will take in a decreasing finishing circuit that sees the peloton tackle the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg climbs three times each.

“I had a quick check on the changes but I’ve not really looked that closely yet,” Flecha said. “I have an overall idea and I am curious about it. It’s a challenge for me as it is something new. The race is not going to really change in one sense because it will always be tough, but with the new laps it will be interesting.”

With the Classics over, Flecha will look towards the next part of the season, and – almost surprisingly – hopes to make Team Sky’s nine-man line up at the Tour de France.

The Spanish rider was arguably one of the unluckiest riders to finish the race; he was the rider who was actually hit by the France Televisions car on the stage to Saint-Flour that saw Vacansoleil-DCM’s Johnny Hoogerland catapulted into the barbed wire fence. Despite not suffering such spectacular injuries as the Dutchman, Flecha received severe road rash from his contact with the tarmac and, other than receiving the most-aggressive rider prize jointly with Hoogerland, rode the rest of the race with barely a fraction of the recognition that the Dutchman received.

Despite this incident Flecha still hopes to line up at the start line in Liège on June 30th, but concedes that the competition for places will be tough.

“That’s just part of belonging to a big team,” he said. “My point of view has always been not to think about making the team; you just focus on your job and trying to do your best. Then at the end it’s for the team to decide who they will bring.

“Sometimes it’s not necessarily the strongest riders but someone who fits a certain role at that moment,” he explained. “In the end it’s about doing the best for the team and it’s not the responsibility of us riders to be concerned with being at a certain race.

“But it’s true that the team has changed,” he continued. “There are some really good new riders so of course the team has gone to a higher level. It will not be easy to make the team for certain races. I think it’s going to challenge everybody and probably, if you are surrounded by good riders, your level gets higher. So it only helps the team to move forward.”

It’s safe to assume however, that if the Spaniard makes the British team’s roster for the race, he’ll be steering well clear of the media vehicles! Until then, he will be aiming to repeat his Het Nieuwsblad victory or, even better, go one or two steps higher on the Roubaix or Flanders podiums.


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