TalkingShop: Ian Stannard looks forward to Classics season

Gordon Wiseman writes … Team Sky’s Ian Stannard has just completed an intense period of racing in Italy and, having notched up eight days of racing in an eleven day period, he has nicely honed his form ahead of what he considers to be the most important three weeks of his racing year.

RST Cycle Clothing & Trigon Bikes

The start of that block of competition saw Ian racing in one of Italy’s main stage races of the year, the week-long Tirreno – Adriatico (WorldTour), and he helped Team Sky pick up two stages wins as well as finish the race with a superb individual time trial that again demonstrated his growing ability in stage races.

Ian Stannard leads Jeremy Hunt full gas in Milan San Remo. Photo courtesy of Team Sky.

The so called “Race of the Two Seas” started with a 16.9km team time trial and Ian lead the team – that included Britain’s World Road Race champion Mark Cavendish – across the line into 4th place as they recorded a time just 23 seconds slower than the fastest time of the day. Most of the Team Sky line up were using Tirreno to finalise their preparation for the opening Classic of the season, the Milan – San Remo – and the mountainous fourth stage at 251kms was ideal preparation and saw the riders in the saddle for just under 7 hours 30 minutes.

The route for that stage had to be revised with just hours to go because of the cold and snow but even the revised route didn’t do the riders any favours in view of the terrain they had to ride over – that and the final uphill drag to the finishing line. Stannard again showed his determination to finish – knowing that the amount of the time in the saddle would pay dividends at San Remo and in the coming weeks – and finished just 2 minutes 40 seconds behind the winner.

But it was in the closing 9.3km time trial that Ian put in his best individual performance, clocking up a time just 18 seconds behind that set by Fabian Cancellara, the four time winner of the World Time Trial championship, to highlight his growing stage racing prowess. In fact, just two seconds separated Ian from a place on the winner’s podium.

“I did pretty good on the climbs in Tirreno and when it came to the final time trial, well whenever a race finishes with a time trial you can give it full gas and that’s exactly what I did. I’m still young so it was all part of the bigger learning process” he said later.

With the Tirreno race completed, Ian had a few days break to rest and build up his strength for the 298km (190 miles) Milan – San Remo Classic where the riders would again face a further seven hours in the saddle. Having won at San Remo in 2009, Cavendish had always said that, wearing the World Champion’s rainbow jersey, he wanted this race again so Ian knew he’d be riding in “team mode” for this Italian Classic.

But things weren’t going to run to the plan that Cavendish and Team Sky were working to as the World Champion slipped off the back of the leading group of riders as they tackled the climb of Le Maine with over 200kms of racing completed. Ian had a fall as they approached that climb and then had to wait for the Cavendish group to ride up to him from which point he was part of the small group of Sky riders burying themselves in an effort to help Cavendish re-join the leaders.

Despite chasing for around 50kms and having closed the gap down to around 40 seconds they weren’t able to make the junction and Ian’s race had effectively come to an end. “We were always up against it” Ian explained. “When the other teams heard Cav had crashed they rode even harder at the front so even if we’d got back on we’d have been knackered. Along the coast road towards San Remo we had a tail wind so everyone was riding flat out. And full gas at 60kph for that length of time is just knackering”.

Ian’s attention now turns to his favourite part of the year – Belgium and the cobbles. “Yes, I’m really up for this” – and this weekend sees him race at the Grand Prix E3 Prijs and Sunday’s Gent – Wevelgem. “These are both World Tour races so they are the races I train hardest for, I’ve got to be ready. My legs are still sore after Tirreno and San Remo but, no, I’ll be ready. Wevelgem is another race where we’ll be pulling for Cav but at the E3, it’s the roads and cobbled climbs I know so I’ll be hoping to put in a ride there”.


RST Cycle Clothing & Trigon Bikes

Tags: ,