Team Sky rider wins Belgian race for second year running

Team Sky's Ian Stannard has won Belgian race Omloop Het Niewsblad for the second year running, despite being outnumbered three to one by a trio of Etixx-Quick Step riders in the closing kilometres.

The Team Sky rider's power saw first Stijn Vandenbergh then former world champion Tom Boonen fall by the wayside.

That left him fighting with last year's Paris-Roubaix winner, Niki Terpstra, for the sprint. which Stannard took right on the line.

Stannard told the Team Sky website: “I couldn’t be happier. It’s nice to do the double sweep at the race, but after the difficulties I had last year breaking my back it’s nice to have got myself back to where I was. 

“Being with those three guys I knew they were all committed to trying to win. As a team they haven’t won it for 10 years and it’s a big one missing off Boonen’s palmares. I knew they were going to race hard. With Sep Vanmarcke and Greg van Avermaet chasing behind it put the pressure on them. I could just sit back, play a bit of poker and enjoy the ride.

“I just wanted to get a free ride for as long as I could. That was my idea. When they all started attacking me it wasn’t a great feeling.

"When Boonen went I was thinking ‘right, what do I do here?’ I knew if I rode him back I’d get attacked. I paced myself back a little bit. I could feel the wheel behind was trying hard to stay with me. So I felt like it was going pretty good and then I just took my chance.”

Among the riders supporting Stannard today was Sir Bradley Wiggins, ridding his first race of the season on the cobbles ahead of what will be his final race for Team Sky, Paris-Roubaix in April.

“All the guys got me into the climbs perfectly," said Stannard. "I felt a bit of pressure when you’ve got a Tour de France winner putting it all on the line for you. You can only really finish it off can’t you!

"The whole team has really lifted a level since last year. We were always at the front and always perfectly positioned. Quick-Step took me to the end and I only had to race the last 4km (laughs)!”

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 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.