So near yet so far as Stannard is pipped on home straight

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THERE was heartbreak for city cyclist Ian Stannard as he was caught less than 200 metres from the finish line after helping to form the nearly winning move with 40kms to go in the Gent - Wevelgem Classic.

Coming in the middle of what’s known in Belgium as “Flanders Week” the Wevelgem is often considered to be a ‘sprinter’s’ race, but still covers many hilly, cobbled climbs over its 204km.

This is the busiest time of year for the 23-year-old and come the end of Sunday’s epic he had raced 10 days in the previous 19, covering a full racing distance of nearly 1800kms - in addition to training.

Stannard and Team Sky were visible on the front of the peloton before the start of the second climb and as the field dropped off the treacherous road with 40kms to go, he had forced a break with three others.

The lead of this four never exceeded 45 seconds but team-mates from the squads supporting the quartet did all they could to block any chase. Even the HTC squad of Britain’s Mark Cavendish looked like they could do nothing to bring the lead down.

Down to a lead of 30 seconds with some 20kms to go, it soon turned into only 8kms and a lead of 20 seconds to the chequered flag, and it looked like Stannard was on for one of his best ever professional finishes.

With 2kms left one rider dropped off the front and Stannard chose that moment to launch his attack, but with his shoulders swaying going past the 200 metres to go board, the surging peloton swept by him, leaving Stannard extremely disappointed with what ended in a 35th place finish.

“I looked behind a couple of times and thought I was going to make it. But when they passed me let’s just say that the air turned blue,” he said.