Update: Ian Stannard’s First Win!

Updated (July 11) – Gordon Wiseman … Castlethorpe’s Ian Stannard (Team Sky) reached a major milestone in his pro career when he claimed his first ever individual win taking the fifth stage of the Tour of Austria into Schladming on Thursday.

The 24 year old instigated the main break of the day that formed before the 27km mark, just as the race was approaching the first of the day’s three climbs, and the other four riders that joined him then worked together to ensure that the quintet stayed away from the peloton for the rest of the 157.2km stage.

With its mountainous terrain, it’s no surprise that most of the Austrian national Tour’s eight stages feature mountains and difficult climbs in their parcours.  And although Thursday’s stage was the first that didn’t reach eye-watering heights, it still proved to be a stern test for the nearly 130 riders.

With much attention of much of the world’s press and the sport’s enthusiasts focussed on the Tour de France at present, Stannard admitted after the race that it was easy to think that no one would notice what the six man Sky team were doing:

“We all feel a bit left out here with the Tour de France going on so thought we’d better do something and let everyone know we’re in Austria”.  And what better way to get everyone’s attention than taking a stage win!

Ian has always been known as something of a Classics specialist with his main focus of each racing year being the cobbled races of northern Europe in March and April but he’s always then gone on to show his team-based work ethic as a Tour rider for the rest of the year and has been quietly developing as a stage rider in his own right.

“I’m climbing much better now and people forget that I can sprint.  The other four riders certainly didn’t know I could until we crossed the finishing line that’s for sure” he later laughed despite having undertaken a 300km transfer between stages after his win.

This year has seen him come very close to that elusive first pro win.  He was leading the prestigious Gent – Wevelgem Classic at the end of March until he was caught inside the final 300 metres, his 8th place in the Tour of Switzerland was, until then, his best ever stage result, and he just missed out on selection for the Tour de France.

Ian then took an almost unheralded 4th place in the recent National Road Race championships that showed what good form he was taking into the Osterreich Rundfahrt.

Stannard’s opening attack of the day was part of the plan that was hatched out by Team Sky before the day’s racing started.  “The plan was to get in the break as this stage looked to have the best chance of it staying away.  I managed to get in the break and it was a pretty strong group of five so it all looked quite good.”

But even as that early break was forming, it would have been difficult to imagine that the rest of the field would have allowed them to stay away for the rest of the stage.

The quintet slowly built up a lead that stretched to over 4 minutes before the reeling in process started but having tackled the final climb that lead was still just under 3 minutes with a tail wind pushing the riders along.

Into the final metres and with the bunch still nearly a minute behind Ian used the skills and knowledge he’d gained riding the track as a younger rider.  “I just tried to play it pretty cool and won the sprint.  I think maybe that little bit of knowledge you get from the track probably helped, just laying off them a little bit at the end and using it to my advantage”.

Going into the race Ian was fighting to overcome a cold but that didn’t deter his efforts on Thursday.  “I’ve still got good legs and there’s still three stages to go.  I quite fancy the time trial and having now broken the ice, I’m hoping for yet more race wins before too long”.

Although those Team Sky riders competing in France would have cheered Ian’s Austrian result, Stannard was quick to acknowledge that the stage win on the same day by Edvald Boasson Hagen, Sky’s first in the French race, was the bigger win for the team but, as he’s always inclined to do, he then summed up his own win as “just another race!”

But just as things were looking so good for Team Sky, Bradley Wiggins crashed out of the Tour de France affecting those riders and team personnel competing in both France and Austria where Stannard still had his eyes on further placings before his race came to an end.

Again he didn’t disappoint.  In Saturday’s 30.1km time trial he set a time just 1min. 24secs behind that of Bert Grabsch, the 2008 World Time Trial champion, which made Ian’s the tenth quickest time of the day.

And in Sunday’s closing 133.8km stage into Vienna he lead the team’s sprinter Chris ‘CJ’ Sutton into 4th place overall, hanging onto the speed of his Aussie team-mate to come home in 15th place in his own right.

So after nearly 1200kms racing in just eight days, Ian finished the Tour of Austria in 45th place overall but left all the more richer as a rider with his first pro race win under his belt added to other seasoned finishes adding to his growing stature as a stage racer to be noticed.

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