Tour de France champion Chris Froome describes British team-mate Ian Stannard as an 'absolute beast' after his Herald Sun Tour stage win

Chris Froome has described Sky team-mate Ian Stannard as ‘an absolute beast’ after Stannard’s final stage victory in the Australia’s Jayco Herald Sun Tour on Sunday.

Stannard had spent the preceding week in the service of his Sky team-mates, including Froome, but switched from domestique duties to try his luck in the break on the final circuit-based stage in Kingslake.

Stannard’s move into the break of the day paid off, as he attacked his escape companions in the final kilometre up the climb to the finish to take the victory – his first since stage three of the 2016 Tour of Britain.

>>> Ian Stannard wins final stage of Herald Sun Tour as Damien Howson seals overall

Froome has witnessed Stannard’s power on many occasions, grinding out a relentless pace at the front of the peloton. The 29-year-old from Essex has been a key part in Froome’s three Tour de France victories.

“He’s an absolute beast,” said Froome. “An incredible rider. That’s the thing about Ian. He’s so versatile. He’s 85 kilos or something but he wins on top of a climb. Scary!”

Froome himself missed out on defending his Herald Sun Tour win from 2016, as race leader Damien Howson (Orica-Scott) managed to fend off his rivals and take his first major victory.

Despite missing out on GC, Froome and the whole of Team Sky can come away from the race with some satisfaction as a promising building block for the season ahead.

Ian Stannard played a key part in Team Sky’s early-season outing in Australia. Photo: Graham Watson

In addition to Stannard’s final stage win, the British WorldTour squad’s Danny van Poppel won the opening prologue time trial and Luke Rowe took stage two.

“The atmosphere has been brilliant along the roadside, ” said Froome. “And I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone for coming out and making the race as special as it is.”

Not content with their efforts on the final day of the race, Froome, Stannard and French team-mate Kenny Elissonde – who was Sky’s highest-placed rider overall in third – elected to ride over 70km back to the team hotel after the stage.

The Herald Sun Tour concludes Sky’s outing in Australia, that also saw them take part in the People’s Choice Classic, Tour Down Under and Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.

Sky’s focus now turns to Europe, with Stannard and Rowe spearheading the squad’s Spring Classics aims. Stannard will be looking to build on his third place in last year’s Paris-Roubaix.

Froome mixing training camps with early-season races such as Volta a Catalunya in March. His big focus for the season will, of course, be the Tour de France in July and it is highly likely that Stannard will be by his side.