RETURNING home after two weeks racing in the Middle East, cyclist Ian Stannard will have been more than pleased with his efforts, most recently in the six day Tour of Oman, but will know that far different terrain and conditions await this weekend at the Belgian Classics.
After the flat roads of Qatar, the racers moved on to Oman and were faced with rugged, hilly roads, including for most their hardest climb of the year so far - the 5.8km climb of the Green Mountain that topped out at over 1200 metres.
The Team Sky rider suffered in the early stages of the race - noticed by his team director so he was able to recover before playing his role in helping his team leader Edvald Boasson Hagen to take a well deserved second place overall and win the green points jersey.
The 23-year-old has never shied away from his love of the cobbled races of Belgium and northern France - not since he took second place overall in the junior Paris - Roubaix. And this weekend the Castlethorpe rider will compete in a Belgian double header - Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Sunday’s Kuurne - Bruxelles - Kuurne.
It was in last year’s Kuurne race that he showed to the pro peloton that he intended to make his name as a Classics rider of the future, taking third place overall with a stunning ride in what most considered the hardest race of the year.
It’s the harder conditions that Stannard relishes, and he’ll be hoping for more bad weather this Sunday.