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Chris Lawless thrust into Team Sky leadership role at first WorldTour race

Jamie Finch-Penninger
16 Jan 2018

The Team Sky rider spoke after the opening stage of the 2018 Tour Down Under

Neo-pro Chris Lawless has been thrown into the deep-end at the Tour Down Under, assuming the role as the main sprinter in his first race with Team Sky.

Lawless was 14th on the opening stage of the Tour Down Under, moving himself up to Caleb Ewan's (Michelton-Scott) wheel just before the final dash to the line but ran out of legs as the sprinters produced their final kick. The win went to Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal).

'We were going for me in the sprint and the boys looked after me really well all day,' said Lawless after the stage.

'We just got a little separated in the end. We committed to leading me out and because we got a bit separated, we ran out of men with a kilometre to go.

'I just had a bit too much to do really,' Lawless added. 'Once you have to make an effort in the last kilometre in a race of this calibre, you'll struggle to sprint off that - 200 metres to go and my legs just gave way.'

It's just the start of a WorldTour career for Lawless, who made the step up after a number of strong seasons with JLT Condor, Axeon Hagens Berman and Team Wiggins.

He particularly drew attention with his fine ride for second at the British National Championships last year and was picked up Team Sky on a two-season contract.

'When I signed for the team, it was my dream team to sign for them,' said Lawless. 'Especially being British, it's a dream come true.'

With the increased prestige of the position and team comes more responsibility, something that has been thrust upon Lawless immediately in his entry to the WorldTour.

Lawless joins Egan Bernal, Pavel Sivakov and Kristoffer Halvorsen as a neo-pro for the British squad, in a move many have pegged as preparing for the future direction of Team Sky.

'I think for these first two years it's going to be about experiencing different roles and learning from the all the experienced riders,' said Lawless.

'I'll slot into any role the team give me, today it was as a sprinter and it didn't quite work out but I'll try my best in the next role they give me.'

The first learning step has been adapting to the pace of the WorldTour, a marked departure from Under 23 racing and lesser UCI events.

Improving and learning from mistakes is all part of the process.

'Everything is quicker - sprinting, climbing, cornering... everything,' reiterated Lawless. 'That's the main difference. When the race isn't on, it's a lot more relaxed and everyone has a bit more respect for each other.

'Obviously, all bets are off though when it comes down to the sprint.'

Reflecting on his performance and thinking ahead, Lawless said, 'I think there's always room for improvement in any area.

'Today we were in the right position and we just ran out of men. If we can get every single rider together as a unit, we can get it right.'

Looking ahead to the rest of the race, Lawless was upbeat about the chances of the squad to secure a result, but rued the loss of former Under 23 World Champion Kristoffer Halvorsen, who got caught up in a crash in the pre-race criterium, fracturing a bone in his hand in the process.

'All the team were a bit gutted. He [Halvorsen] is quicker than me and could have got better results in the sprint. We're going to give it our best shot with me in the sprint stages, we have Egan (Bernal) for the overall.

'The stages in Stirling and Norton Summit are pretty open as well, so we'll see what we can do here.'

The Tour Down Under continues with a hilly profile into Stirling for Stage 2, but Lawless will likely be called back to the role as key sprinter for Stages 3 and 6.