Ian Stannard's chances of a win in this year's Spring Classics may have improved since Tom Boonen's crash in Paris-Nice this week, but the Sky rider says he has nothing but sympathy for his rival.
Boonen would have been a leading contender for this year's Classics from Milan-San Remo, March 22, to Paris-Roubaix, April 19, had he not crashed last Monday, dislocating his shoulder and fracturing his elbow in the process.
"I feel gutted for him," Stannard told Cycling Weekly. "I know the work that I put in, and he probably does the same. It's a lot for him to put in and then for it all to be over due to a crash. I had it happen to me last year as well. I feel pretty sorry for him."
Stannard's immediate aim is to complete the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race, though his team's preparations have been disrupted by the withdrawal of Chris Froome through injury.
"It changes the dynamics of the team without Chris, but we still have a strong team with Leopold König and Wout Poels. They are going well. It's going to be open for them to see where they are at and what they can do instead of riding for Chris,” Stannard said.
"I just need some good racing, some hard racing. I need to ride hard on the climbs, stretch myself and have good training days for the upcoming classics. That's what makes the difference."
A week and a half ago, Stannard raced to the win in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad semi-Classic. It was not just the win, but the style of it that impressed followers. To claim the trophy for a second year running, he had to beat the odds by going against three rival Etixx cyclists: Tom Boonen, Niki Terpstra and Stijn Vandenbergh.
"My confidence is good after some problems last year. I had a hard winter’s training, not knowing where I was and not having all the racing behind me. There was quite a bit of uncertainty, so it was nice to go to Australia and Qatar and do well, then come to Nieuwsblad and go really well,” continued Stannard.
"My level of fitness is definitely slightly better than last year. I still have this race to go and a bit of training before the Classics. It's just going to get better. I'm training harder, getting fitter, getting in racing kilometres."
Leaning on Sky's Jaguar ahead of the stage start, Stannard had a chance to stretch his left leg. Under the medical tape and wrapping, "a chunk" of skin is missing due to a crash in Saturday's Strade Bianche one-day race. Looking ahead to this week in Italy and the upcoming classics, Stannard laughed it off. He said, "It's nothing too bad."
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