Graham Watson was on hand to record Ian Stannard's mighty win in the 2015 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Ian Stannard (Sky) defied the odds to win Saturday’s opening semi-classic, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in Belgium.

Stannard had found himself in a hostile situation, surrounded by three Etixx-QuickStep riders in a four-man escape group in the race’s final 20 kilometres. Stannard couldn’t have had worse company given the Classics pedigree of his companions: Tom Boonen, Niki Terpstra and Stijn Vandenbergh.

Initially, Stannard sat near the back of the group, letting Etixx do all the work to create distance between themselves and a small chase unit containing Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo), who had punctured earlier.

Although the Etixx riders took it in turn to attack Stannard, with the British rider notably chasing down a strong move by Boonen. Rather than wait for more attacks, it was Stannard himself who accelerated into the final three kilometres dropping all but Terpstra.

Stannard then got the better of Paris-Roubaix champion Terpstra in the sprint to the line.

Bradley Wiggins in the 2015 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Bradley Wiggins played an essential support role for Stannard in the first half of the race

AG2R leads an escape the 2015 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

An early break was swallowed up as the action hotted up

Luke Rowe escapes in the 2015 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Luke Rowe was also active in the race, and went on to finish ninth

Niki Terpstra escapes in the 2015 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Niki Terpstra heads the escape group

Greg Van Avermaet chases in the 2015 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Greg Van Avermaet heads the chase group

Ian Stannard in the 2015 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Ian Stannard let the Etixx-QuickStep riders initially do the work: it was their race to lose

Ian Stannard wins the 2015 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Ian Stannard sprints around Niki Terpstra

Ian Stannard wins the 2015 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Ian Stannard wins the 2015 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad