Team Sky’s Ian Stannard has become the first British rider to win the Belgian early season Classic, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad from BMC Racing’s Greg Van Avermaet. Another Sky rider, Edvald Boasson Hagen, finished third.
The 26-year-old, who was born in Chelmsford and grew up in Milton Keynes, beat Van Avermaet in a two-man sprint to the line at the end of the 194.5km race, which started and finished in Ghent.
Edvald Boasson Hagen had been in a break that was pulled back shortly before his Team Sky colleague Stannard got clear of the peloton with 16km still to race.
Their successful break came towards the end of a combative race in which riders such as Sep Vanmarcke of Belkin Pro Cycling and Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Niki Terpstra had been among the protagonists.
It’s the biggest win of former British road champion Stannard’s career, but one that will come as no surprise to those who follow the rider.
Widely regarded as one of the hardest working domestiques in the peloton, he has emerged as a rider capable of challenging for victory in some of the sport’s leading one-day races.
In his first year at Sky, 2010, he finished third in a freezing edition of Kuurne-Brussels- Kuurne. The following year, he went into the last kilometre of Gent-Wevelgem alone, but was reeled in ahead of the line.
In 2012, Stannard won the British national championship on the road, and was also in the Olympic road race line-up for Team GB.
Last year, he led Milan-San Remo over the climb of the Poggio, and was one of the most attacking riders in the finale of the race, won by MTN-Qhubeka’s Gerald Ciolek.
Following his victory today, Stannard told Belgian TV channel Sporza: ““I knew the guys behind us had dropped off a bit so it was just about playing it right.
“I felt strong on the lead-in and I was confident for the sprint. I knew 300 metres [was a good distance]. I needed to wind it up a little bit and not have it be super fast.
“It worked out well. I knew I had to try and hit him as hard as I could and I was able to get a gap.”
Sports director, Servais Knaven, winner of Paris-Roubaix in 2001, told the Team Sky website: "It was a really incredible show of teamwork today by the guys.
"That's how you need to do it in the Classics - riding together and getting to the front. We have a really strong team and if you can be there at the front then this can happen. If you're strong like Ian was today you can beat anybody.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.