Ian Stannard returns to top form after fracturing spine last year

A strong performance in the Tour of Qatar has helped Ian Stannard to move on from last year's crash-filled season

Ian Stannard at the 2015 Tour Down Under

(Image credit: Watson)

Sky's Ian Stannard is back on track for the classics after a 2014 season derailed by crashes, one which broke his back.

The Englishman made it into the winning moves in the Tour of Qatar, placed fifth in yesterday's time trial and moved to third overall.

"I missed a hell of a lot of training and racing, I don't know the precise amount," Stannard told Cycling Weekly.

"It's been hard getting the racing legs, I've started early in the Tour Down Under though and it's coming on well now."

Stannard won Belgium's classic Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on March 1 – his biggest victory to date – but his season went pear-shaped afterwards. He fractured his vertebrae when he crashed in the Ghent-Wevelgem one-day race in March. He spent his summer recovering. When he did return, he crashed again in the Tour of Britain and broke his wrist.

"It was tough, I was in the best form I ever had. I was going towards [the classics] with a real chance of doing well, but then just for it to disappear like that is pretty frustrating," Stannard said.

Ian Stannard after a crash in the 2014 Ghent-Wevelgem

Ian Stannard after a crash in the 2014 Ghent-Wevelgem

"It's a good thing I won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, isn't it!? The year would've been a big failure otherwise. It was nice to get that win in and the confidence that came along with it."

The confidence carried Stannard though the struggles. After a extended winter training camp in Australia and the Tour Down Under in January, he is riding at the top-end of the Tour of Qatar with the who's who of one-day racing: Tom Boonen, Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan.

>>> Niki Terpstra surprised at beating Bradley Wiggins in Qatar time trial

Paris-Roubaix 2014 victor, Niki Terpstra (Etixx-Quick Step) won yesterdays' 10.9-kilometre time trial over the wind- and sand-swept roads north of Doha, and took the overall lead. Cancellara (Trek), another Paris-Roubaix winner, placed second and Sky's Bradley Wiggins placed third.

Stannard beat former Hour Record holder, Matthias Brändle (IAM Cycling) and finished 10 seconds behind Terpstra. He sits third overall at 12 seconds. Team-mate Luke Rowe is fifth at 33.

Even if Stannard does not win the overall or a stage, he is riding well towards his goals in the classics over the next two months.

Ian Stannard on stage three of the 2015 Tour of Qatar

Ian Stannard on stage three of the 2015 Tour of Qatar
(Image credit: Watson)

"Yeah. Especially yesterday, being close to Brad and Fabian, putting out good power there. It's good stead for the classics. Everyone's got a lot of work to do heading there, but I know that I can still improve, as well.

"Luke's really stepped up his game, it's good to see. It's only going to add to our strengths in the classics.

"We were all quite young at the start of the team in 2010, but we've been growing together and learning the races. It comes down to experience, knowing and learning them. We are all learning them, we all have a passion for those races. We enjoy them and look forward to getting there."

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