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"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."

Photo: Sirotti

IAN STANNARD

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OMLOOP HET NIEUWSBLAD

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TEAM SKY

NEWS
28.02.2015 @ 19:43 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Ian Stannard pulled off a stunning victory to defend his Omloop Het Nieuwsblad title after seeing off three Etixx – Quick-Step riders.

 

The Brit found himself in a select four-man lead group but headed into the final 40 kilometres as the odd man out, surrounded by rival team-mates.

 

Undeterred, Stannard shut down a pair of late attacks on the run into Gent before out-sprinting Niki Terpstra to seal an epic victory.

 

Able to conserve energy as Stijn Vandenbergh, Tom Boonen and Terpstra led the quartet, the 27 year old was finally forced into action as the attacks began. Boonen kicked first with 4.6km to go, only for Stannard to emphatically ride across the gap.

 

Terpstra and Vandenbergh immediately responded but Stannard proved the stronger, heading under the flamme rouge with now just Terpstra for company, and winning a two-up sprint for a second year in succession.

 

Team Sky worked hard all race to set up Stannard, with the squad grouped at the front to avoid the danger on a difficult parcours. Bradley Wiggins and Bernhard Eisel pulled for long turns at the front, and when the attacks began both Stannard and Luke Rowe were there to mix it up in the front group.

 

Rowe capped off a great day with ninth place, having pushed the pace on the Wolvenberg shortly before the decisive move went.

 

 

“I couldn’t be happier,” Stannard told TeamSky.com after the race.

 

“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.

 

“At first I was comfortable, I didn’t have to ride, but then you start thinking about different scenarios and I realised they were just going to attack me in the finale and there’s not much you can do. But I knew they’d have to ride hard coming into the finish as well. 

 

“It was a hard situation, because there were guys behind chasing them. Maybe if the gap was a minute they could have played it more but I don’t know what more they could do really. I thought they were going to attack me pretty hard at the end but the group was only 20 seconds behind so they couldn’t really play too much and I could play poker on the back.

 

“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.

 

“Tom tried to attack me and then I rode back to him. When you ride back up to a guy like that, you know your legs are pretty good.

 

“I was aware Tom was just behind and Niki went a bit early in the sprint. He just shielded me a little bit from the wind and I was able to go for it.”

 

Stannard also paid tribute to the work of his Team Sky team-mates who looked after him for much of the race.

 

“All the guys got me into the climbs perfectly. 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)!

 

“I was off the bike for three months after I broke my back, and then I broke my wrist. It was a struggle because I couldn’t ride my bike, I put on a lot of weight and I got really unfit. But I started my winter early while guys were still racing in Beijing.”

 

 

“Everybody is really happy and excited. It was a perfect race by the whole team," said Sports Director Servais Knaven after the race.

 

“The situation was not so good if you look at the numbers but when you have the legs of Yogi then everything is possible.

 

“The first concern was the chase group. I told him if they get closer you have to work because we have no one else behind. Then you’ll just have to go for the podium.

 

“In the end it turned into a perfect scenario. He had to wait for them to attack but he was super strong and the others were a bit more tired than him. You come into a situation and you have to make the best of it!

 

“They did a great race the whole team. It was a good start to the classics campaign having a race like this.” 

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