Ian Stannard outsuffered BMC’s Greg van Avermaet in an edge-of-your-seat afternoon of racing to break Sky’s classics drought in a soaking wet Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
Stannard sets the standard
While Sky’s tactics for one-day races have met with much derision over the past few years (not least from me), there was no doubt after last spring’s performances that Ian Stannard would one day very soon win a spring classic of his own.
In a race that was dominated by strong breaks in various guises all day long and suitably foul weather to test the riders’ resolve, Sky kept their riders up front all through the race. Bernie Eisel did a lot of work helping to chase down breaks, protecting Stannard, and Edvald Boasson Hagen did an enormous amount of work in a breakaway with Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin).
Stannard saw his chance 16km from the finish, when he attacked and only Van Avermaet was able to stay on his wheel. He timed his sprint push at 300 metres from the line and beat GVA by half a bike length. EBH, fresh from not working with Terpstra and Vanmarcke due to Stannard being up ahead, then whooshed past the two 24 seconds later to bag the third step on the podium.
BMC: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times
There’s been a lot of discussion about BMC’s chances this year – both in the classics and in the grand tours. Taylor Phinney‘s win in Dubai and Steven Cummings’ GC win in Tour Méditerranéen, plus strong showings from Thor Hushovd, Tejay van Garderen and Philippe Gilbert in the past few weeks and the team’s esprit de corps meant that we were all watching for BMC with interest today. And they didn’t let us down. Phinney and van Avermaet worked together to follow the ebb and flow of the race and Phinney put in huge digs on the climbs halfway through to set up his teammate, who went away and never looked back. Phinney himself finished a respectable seventh.
But unfortunately it wasn’t all good news for BMC. Thor Hushovd, who finally looked like he was on good form and in good spirits, crashed out with 92km to go and had to abandon. Speculation was rife – it was a collarbone, no, a nasty gash on the leg, or was it the wrist? The latest was that it was a broken leg, although I can’t find anything to confirm that at the time of posting. Suffice to say, this does not bode well for the rejuvenated God of Thunder.
The peloton observed a minute’s silence before the start of the race in memory of Belgian rider Kristof Goddaert, who was killed in a training accident last week. IAM teammates Sylvain Chavanel and Heinrich Haussler would have loved to win this race for their fallen friend today, but it was not to be.
Race at a glance
1 –Ian Stannard became the first British rider to win Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
33 – Tom Boonen‘s place at the end of the race. He has yet to win Omloop.
59 – The number of DNFs at the end of the race, including defending champion Luca Paolini (Katusha), who never looked particularly happy in the inclement weather.
519 – Days between today’s win and the last one-day win by a Sky rider. That was Rigoberto Uran in the Giro del Piemonte in September 2012. (Thanks to CycleSport for that one.)
1. Ian Stannard (Sky) 4:49:55
2. Greg van Avermaet (BMC) same time
3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) +0:24
4. Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) s/t
5. Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) s/t
6. Jean-Pierre Drucker (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) +1:34
7. Taylor Phinney (BMC) s/t
8. Dries Devenyns (Giant-Shimano) s/t
9. Egoitz Garcia (Cofidis) s/t
10. Arnaud Demare (FDJ) s/t