Ian Stannard gears up for successful year

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IAN Stannard started his sixth season as a professional cyclist in Australia on Sunday, keen to put his hundreds of miles of winter training to good effect in the build-up to the mud and crashes of his favourite races of the year, April’s cobbled Classics.

The 25-year-old had an extra incentive to perfect his training during the winter months as he kick-starts his 2013 racing campaign wearing the red, white and blue of the national champion’s jersey, having won the British Road Race Championship last June.

Now in his fourth year with Team Sky, Stannard is a renown Classics specialist and has already achieved some significant results in one-day ‘classic’ races, finishing 3rd in Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne in 2010 and then 4th overall in the 2011 edition of Paris-Tours.

Having taken a short rest after finishing his 2012 season with a crash and fractured pelvis, Stannard has been clocking up the miles, starting with a lone week’s training in Lanzarote, before joining up with his team-mates at Team Sky in Tenerife and then Majorca.

Having topped their 2012 season with Bradley Wiggins’ sensational triumph at the Tour de France, Team Sky have been looking at how they can replicate that sort of success in the Classics, and part of that plan has seen a squad training together in the winter months before their first race of the year this week ‘down under’.

That careful preparation even had the group undertake a rare visit just before Christmas to some of the cobbled bergs that feature in the Tour of Flanders – one of Stannard’s favourite races – for an early recce of this year’s race route.

Stannard was direct in explaining how he felt he would respond to Sky’s focussed attention on the Classics. In a recent video promo on Team Sky’s website he said that his goal for the season was to “perform in the Classics and prove myself”.

Stannard’s determination has always been to give his best, whether it’s playing a support role and helping a team-mate chase a win, or – as he’s always dreamed of – being the first British rider to cross the line at his favourite race of the year, Paris–Roubaix.

His chase of a win at Roubaix started in Sunday’s People’s Choice Classic, a 51km Criterium around the streets of Adelaide where Stannard helped Chris ‘CJ’ Sutton sprint into 5th place.

And on Tuesday the racing moved up a gear when he and his seven team-mates started the six-day, 760km Santos Tour Down Under, that’s based in and around the capital city of South Australia.

The opening 135km stage proved much tougher than many expected and with the team focussing on keeping their favoured riders for the overall result up at the front of the race, Stannard was left covering and protecting double Olympic gold medallist Geraint Thomas and eventual 8th place finisher Edvald Boasson Hagen.