Stannard confident ahead of Belgian season openers

ian stannard, team sky, sky, cycling

Ian Stannard says he is feeling confident ahead of this weekend's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne races.

The Team Sky rider, who finished third at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne last year, believes his form is good enough to repeat the 2010 performance.

"Riding the Tour of Qatar and then the Tour of Oman last week has been great for me," he said.

"I feel good, and I've had one more day to rest than I did last year, which could be important."

"Qatar was a lot harder than previous years, and although Oman was not as intense, the hills were good practice and they set me up well for this weekend."

However, Stannard also believes a combination of the weather and the controversial ban on radios will make both races too hard to call.

"It will be interesting to see what the effects of these are. Obviously, the communication side of things will be a lot different.

"Whereas in Qatar and Oman, the roads are wide and fairly consistent in nature, navigating narrow cobble sections and short, steep hills in Belgium will be completely different.

"Normally, you can rely on the radios to discuss tactics, to see how everyone else is feeling and to work-out what your next move is.

"Now, we're going to have to stick together, or as close as we can to each other, to make sure we don't make any mistakes."

Alongside Stannard's desire to improve on last year's performance, his team mate Juan Antonio Flecha is seeking to defend his Het Nieuwsblad title.

Because of their results from 2010, the Brit believes Team Sky will be heavily marked in both races.

"The team are very motivated going into this weekend, but we're under no illusions as to how hard it will be to repeat the results from last year.

"Of course there will be pressure on us, as teams will try and force us into doing a lot of the work."

Another unknown comes in the form of changes to the Het Nieuwsblad course, with a two-kilometre cobbled section at Haaghoek being added towards the closing kilometres.

Riders will pass over this three times, before tackling a new sequence of climbs on the run-in to the finish.

"It's too hard to tell how we're going to approach this new section until we've ridden the course tomorrow afternoon, but it's obviously going to be a lot harder than before," Stannard said.

"However, if a few of us can be up there when the split comes, we have a good chance to repeat what we did last year."

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