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.