CITY cyclist Ian Stannard has just completed an arduous winter’s training that will ensure he starts his 2012 racing campaign as fit and as strong as he has ever been as he enters his fifth year at the top of his sport.
An amazing 2011 saw the 24-year-old pick up his first professional race win at the Tour of Austria in July, play a crucial role in the final stages of the Copenhagen World Championship road race – that saw Britain’s Mark Cavendish win cycling’s coveted rainbow jersey – before wrapping up his year finishing fourth overall in autumn’s Paris Tour.
During December and January Stannard put in some very hard blocks of training at Team Sky’s winter camp in Majorca, a joint venture shared with Team GB – Britain’s Olympic and Elite bike racing outfit.
“I had a bit of a problem in December as I fell when out one day walking the dog and damaged my knee, but I soon got back into the training,” said Stannard.
“I guess I must have been out in Majorca for nearly five weeks in total. I couldn’t stay there throughout the whole period as you can get stale being based in the same hotel – even though it was very nice – with all the same people.
“We did some very long rides and some intense special efforts all programmed to suit each rider’s seasonal targets. So what I was doing wasn’t necessarily the same as, say, Bradley Wiggins or Cav.”
Mark Cavendish is new to the Team Sky line-up in 2012 and, as cycling’s number 1 road sprinter, will bring some new priorities to arguably the world’s top cycle team.
“Cav will bring another element to the team,” said Stannard. “But I’ve known him since our Academy days and he’s been trained by Rod Ellingworth of Team Sky for a number of years even though he raced for other teams. So in many ways it’s a seamless transition to have him on board.”
Over the years Stannard has built up a reputation as being a rider with considerable strength and power, capable of putting in incredibly long, hard stints at the front of the peloton that often sees 100 and more riders gasping in his wake.
“Let’s just say I’m stronger now than I’ve ever been before and I just can’t wait to get started,” he said while competing at the final Revolution race at the National Cycling Centre. “I’m producing great power figures but nothing really counts until we start the racing.”
Although racing on the track at Manchester on Saturday night was fun, once he pinned on a race number Stannard was ready to race as he always likes to – hard.
“I’ve not touched my track bike for a while but you soon get used to it again,” he said. “The Derny race was good but I had to keep telling my pacer to go faster.”
As in his first two years with Team Sky, Stannard will be following the same early season racing programme so that he starts his favoured cobbled Classics in Belgium and northern France in tip-top condition.
He said: “I start at the Tour of Qatar this week then move to Oman. There’s a short break, really only enough to travel back to England before we go to Belgium for the double-header weekend of Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne (the race in which he first demonstrated that he’s a Classics rider of the future after finishing in third place in 2010).
Stannard can rattle off every race he’ll be doing through to the middle of August and the Tour of Poland. The schedule includes the Giro D’Italia in May, but he could be adding another three week Grand Tour to his schedule towards the end of the year as he may also be riding in the Vuelta a Espana again in August and September.
“Last year I did 95 races days – excluding all the associated travelling – and this year I’ll have clocked around 60 by the time we do the Olympics,” he said.
“I’m a road racer and many see the Olympic road race as one of cycling’s biggest prizes. To have the chance to take part in an event as big as that in your own back yard is just too big to miss.”