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.
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“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.
“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.
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.
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.
“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.”