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AFP / Yuzuru Sunada
Tour de France winner Chris Froome’s Team Sky have rung the changes ahead of Wednesday’s Fleche Wallonne race after a miserable start to the Ardennes Classics. Sky enjoyed a largely successful showing in the two Cobbled Classics this month with three top 10 finishes but their Ardennes Classics got off to a terrible start at Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race.
Six of the eight-man team failed to finish with Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen earning the best placing at 39th, 36 seconds off winner Philippe Gilbert. That prompted the British team to release the likes of Boasson Hagen and Welshman Geraint Thomas, both of whom raced the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix the previous two Sundays, and bring in fresh faces. Sky will now be led by Briton Peter Kennaugh and Spaniards Mikel Nieve and David Lopez for the Fleche Wallonne. Froome and chief Tour lieutenant Richie Porte will join up with the team for Sunday’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
“G (Thomas), Eddy (Boasson Hagen) and Christian (Knees) were all coming off a long Cobbled Classics block and I think they were tired … both mentally and physically,” said Sky sports director Nicolas Portal on the team’s website. “We have Pete, Mikel and David coming in to replace them for Fleche Wallonne so I think we will be much fresher for that, and if we avoid more bad luck, we should be in good shape.”
Despite winning the Tour de France the last two years through Bradley Wiggins and then Froome, Sky have come in for much criticism for their poor performances in the Spring Classics. However, this year things went much better as Thomas took third at Gent-Wevelgem, eighth at the Tour of Flanders and seventh at Paris-Roubaix. Wiggins also chipped in with a ninth-placed finish in Roubaix. But their Amstel Gold Race was ruined by Thomas crashing and a puncture to sprinter Ben Swift. Both riders, as well as those who dropped back to try to pace them up to the peloton, had to drop out meaning only Boasson Hagen and Australian Nathan Earle managed to finish.