In a near copy-cat repeat of last year’s man-against-man sprint, for the second year running, MK’s Ian Stannard won Saturday’s prestigious 200km Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
But this year Stannard had to fight off the attentions of cycling’s King of Belgium, Tom Boonen and two of his Etixx - QuickStep teammates, 2014 Paris-Roubaix winner Niki Terpstra and ‘super domestique’ Stijn Vandenbergh over an incredibly tense final 40kms before again taking the chequered flag by the smallest of margins.
After the opening skirmishes had been brought back together with Team Sky doing a lot of the work, Tom Boonen attacked with 40kms to go and, together with Terpstra and Vandenberg, formed an impressive sight as they surged to the front.
But alert to the danger, the three Etixx riders were on ‘home’ soil and this is the one cobbled Classic Boonen has to win, Stannard craftily jumped onto the back of their speeding training to hitch a ride.
And as all commentators and observers later commented, that was Ian’s job to do so, tactically he could do no more than let the Etixx riders force the pace at the front. It was, after all, three and against one and theirs to lose!
Into the final 4km it was surprisingly Boonen who attacked first. And again, it seemed like that was the race over and Tornado Tom would at last win at the Omloop. But despite knowing the other two Etixx riders would now cling to his back wheel, Stannard wanted his second win and so slowly hauled himself back to the former World Champion.
He passed Boonen, Vandenbergh cried enough leaving Ian to fight out the finish with Qatar winner Terpstra. It was Terpstra who kicked first but, as in his win last year, Ian sat in and launched his sprint when he knew the time was right and glided by the frustrated Dutchman to take his second cobbled Classic win!
Describing his win Ian said: “With those three guys I knew they were all committed to trying to win.
“I knew they were going to race hard. I could just sit back, play a bit of poker and enjoy the ride.
“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.”