ALTHOUGH denied the chance to open Team GB’s medal haul on the first day of London 2012, the Men’s Road Race team never gave up the chase for glory – and Ian Stannard certainly played his part as the quintet gave their all.
As Team GB let everyone know their race plan ahead of the 250km epic on Saturday – they were riding for super sprinter Mark Cavendish – that meant many of the other sprint nations simply sat on the wheels of the British riders, happy to let them do the work for the bulk of the race.
With nine accents of the main feature of the Classic distance race – Surrey’s Box Hill circuit – to take into account, the Team GB riders knew that had to ride up each climb at a steady pace so not to deaden Cavendish’s sprinter legs, in the knowledge that they could haul back any yardage they lost on the super-fast descents.
And although a group of around a dozen riders opened up a gap of up to six minutes at one stage, Stannard and co were always confident they could manage a gap like that and by the time of the final circuit they had pegged that back to just over a minute – exactly as they had hoped for in their meticulous pre-race planning.
On many of those management laps, Stannard and his Team Sky team-mate, Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, were prominent at the front of the peloton as they controlled each climb before plummeting down the other side.
However, on that final 15.5km lap of Box Hill, the leading group increased to over 30 riders and with other major countries represented in that group, those teams were never going to help Team GB try to pull them back.
The British riders continued to give chase, and although they got the gap down to under a minute in the chase back to central London, Stannard and the other riders working for Cavendish were never going to get the chance to lead out the ‘Manx Missile’ for what the whole of Great Britain had hoped for and expected – a winning sprint past Buckingham Palace.
Cavendish eventually came home 40 seconds behind gold medal winner Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan, with Stannard a further 10 seconds back.
When trying to overcome his obvious disappointment, Cavendish paid tribute to his GB team-mates, saying; “I can be very proud of how the lads rode today.
“I’m proud of my country as there was incredible support. The guys are just sat there – they’re spent.
“They’ve got nothing left in the tank. It’s incredible to see that, to see what they gave for the cause.”