Thomas enjoys Flanders favourite tag

Geraint Thomas says it is “pretty special” to be labelled one of the favourites to win Sunday’s Tour of Flanders race in Belgium.

The one-day cobbled classic is also one of five ‘monument’ races, which are among the most prestigious in cycling.

He has been named as a potential winner after March’s victory in

E3 Harelbeke

and a

third place in Gent-Wevelgem.

“It’s a race I grew up watching and to be one of the favourites is massive,” the Welsh Team Sky rider, 28, said.

Tom Simpson’s 1961 victory remains the only British win in the event’s 102-year history and Sunday will be the 99th running of the approximately 159-mile race.

British-based Team Sky are yet to win one of cycling’s five premier one-day races, which comprise four races in spring – Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege – and Giro di Lombardia in autumn.

However, Thomas’s form in this year’s

opening two cobbled classics

has ensured he will be a marked man for the most important race in Belgium, which features numerous short but steep climbs, many of which are cobbled.

“I’m on a nice little roll and the team are too,” Thomas told

the Team Sky website. 

“I’ve started the year really well and last weekend was great for my confidence. To win [E3 Harelbeke] on Friday and then [get on the Gent-Wevelgem] podium on Sunday was a big boost, so hopefully I can get a similar result at Flanders.”

British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton believes the hype surrounding Thomas

is justified.

And his chances of winning the race have been boosted by the withdrawals of Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen.

Switzerland’s Cancellara, who has won the Tour of Flanders three times, including the previous two editions, and also won three Paris-Roubaix titles and one Milan-San Remo, fractured his lower back in a crash during E3 Harelbeke.

Belgian Boonen, who has also won three Flanders races and four Paris-Roubaix crowns, dislocated his left shoulder and fractured his left elbow in the Paris-Nice stage race.

“With big guns like Boonen and Cancellara out, everybody else has got a real chance,” continued Thomas, who singled out Slovakia’s Peter Sagan and Belgium’s Sep Vanmarcke as potential threats.

Belgium’s Stijn Devolder, winner in 2008 and 2009, and Dutch rider Niki Terpstra, who won last year’s Paris-Roubaix, are also among the favourites.

Sir Bradley Wiggins, who is targeting next Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix, is among the British riders in Team Sky’s line-up, which also features Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe, while Scott Thwaites is riding for Bora-Argon 18.

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