Wout Poels has confirmed that he will miss the Ardennes Classics as he continues his recovery from a knee injury.
The Dutchman won Liege-Bastogne-Liege last year to claim Team Sky's first ever Monument. He had hoped to defend his title but, having been out of competitive action since the Ruta del Sol, he has confirmed that he won’t be on the start line of 'La Doyenne'.
He said: “The problem has been in my right knee. I had some pain which was there when I rode.
"It’s been a tough time because I’ve been on the bike, off the bike, on the bike.
"Everybody knows you need to have done a certain amount of work to be super good in the Ardennes Classics. If you’ve not put the hours in and done the long days - Liege-Bastogne-Liege is more than 250km - then you won’t do well.”
Poels started the season strongly, claiming fourth overall at both the Volta a la Comunitat and Ruta del Sol, but his knee injury meant that he missed Paris-Nice.
“I had a really good winter and I started really well, so it’s frustrating that I couldn’t do what I wanted to do,” he added. "It’s always disappointing when you can’t race or train.
"Last week was the first time I’d had a better week of training - the first time I’d got consistent hours in.”
To be back racing would be amazing
Poels is positive about his progress and, while he won't rush his return to action, he said that he could be back in action in time for the Tour de Romandie.
“I did a nice ride today and the feeling was OK, so hopefully if this week carries on like this then I might go to Romandie to get some competitive action and support the team. To be back racing would be amazing.
“Then I should head to an altitude camp as preparation for the Tour de France. I think the team wants me for the Tour so I’ll work hard for that and go there to support Chris [Froome].”
The period off the bike has only galvanised the Dutchman’s desire to get back on the start line and he is eyeing a Grand Tour double.
"The plan was to go to the Tour and then the Vuelta but it’s really hard to do two Grand Tours in a row. I’ve had a bit more rest now though! So maybe it’s not a bad thing for the Vuelta. I should be fresher for that after this long break.”
Poels' latest (b)vlog gives a clear indicator that he’s back on track too. The video updates on his Instagram page have proved hugely popular with fans this year and he confirmed that they can expect lots more if he gets back in the heart of the action.
"My motivation hasn’t been the best over the past few weeks!” he joked. "If everything stays good over the next few weeks and I keep training, then there’ll be some more (b)vlogs. Otherwise I’ll be a little quiet!"