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At the Classics - Ian Stannard
Image courtesy of Graham Watson
British National Champion Ian Stannard is known for his gargantuan work rate as domestique and also his ability as a one-day racer. In his first season riding for the team, in 2010, he placed third at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and came excruciatingly close to a win at Gent-Wevelgem in 2011. We asked him a few questions about racing in the Spring Classics.
You're currently at training camp with the Classics group?
I'm just at the top of this mountain in Tenerife at the moment, it's like being on the moon. But it's all good, it's sunny and I'm in a short-sleeve jersey so it's nice. We're not interested in altitude training as a group but it's a good work out, 2000-3000 metres above sea level and about two hours of climbing to get up here.
You began your professional career in Belgium, did this develop you as a one-day rider?
Riding for Landbouwkrediet was an eye-opening experience. But a lot of good times. I always raced in Belgium as a junior and U23, almost every weekend. It was natural progression with the kind of rider I am and the one-day races I suppose.
You come from Chelmsford in Essex?
I was born there but then moved up to Milton Keynes and started racing there as a kid and then Manchester at the academy and in Italy, working with Rod [Ellingworth].
In your first season for Team Sky you achieved third at K-B-K. Are you looking forward to seeing what you can do this year?
All races are important, you plan for every race to achieve the best result you can, so I'm looking to do well for the team at every race this season.
And you narrowly lost out in 2011, at Gent-Wevelgem.
Yeah, it was hugely frustrating. I've watched it back a few times and thought “bloody hell, how did I manage that?,” but I'm more prepared this season and have more experience.
It seems like you have a powerful engine and the right temperament to win Roubaix.
This will be my fifth Roubaix. It's a hard race on both rider and equipment and a lot can happen. Roubaix suits me as a rider, so it's more realistic to get on the podium there than, say, Flanders. But we'll see - it's down to me putting the work in. It would be an incredible thing for any rider to win Roubaix.
Give us your thoughts on where you might have to go from to win. From 50km out, or maybe 20km?
Race situations always change. At Roubaix it's on all day, so you have to concentrate and see who's doing what. It would suit me to be going from a little bit further out, get my rhythm going.
Did you say Museeuw was one of your cycling heroes?
I always have a memory of Museeuw on the cobbles and dirt on his face and stuff, but to be honest I just enjoyed racing, doing it myself, so I didn't concentrate too much on the riders on TV.
Do you enjoy riding the cobblestones?
I like riding them and the challenge they present. Cornering is different, too. It's so harsh on your hands and your body, it takes days, weeks even, to recover. You finish the race and get back on the bus and say, “what the hell have I done that for?” But then you have a shower and relax and when you're pulling out of Roubaix you're like, “bring on next year!” But even just finishing is a real sense of achievement, riding into that velodrome is like, “Jesus, what a day, how did I do that?”
Do you change your bike setup for the cobbles?
We have a special cobblestone bike with slightly more relaxed geometry and we use 27mm tyres. That's pretty much it.
How are you finding the Classics group?
Brilliant. We all get on well and have a laugh so it's good. Working with Servais Knaven [Team Sky Sports Director], he's got really great tactical knowledge and always knows what's going on in the races. Everyone respects him.
Do you think a Classics victory is within your reach this season?
I'd like to think so, as I said I'm feeling well prepared and the team is going well. Winning any of the one-day races would be a dream come true, but it's just about racing to the plan and racing for whoever is going well on the day.