‘That’s Stannard in third place!’ I hollered to Dave, through the storm at the top of the Kwaremont on Sunday, during an epic edition [but not if you’re Belgian] of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. A couple of hours later, the big, affable Englishman was still in that position as the 26 survivors limped into Kuurne. We thought we’d better have a word.
PEZ: Great ride on Sunday, Ian – but how did Het Nieuwsblad go?
Ian: Not really good – I’d hoped for better. There was a lot of travelling back from the Tour of Oman, 22/23 hours and I think that was still having an effect. I was conscious of the cold in my lungs at Het Nieuwsblad; I hadn’t opened myself up in training during the week after all that travelling and I felt blocked.
PEZ: How did the legs feel, first thing on Sunday?
Ian: Really good, I wasn’t sure how I would feel but I could see there were a lot of guys really suffering, early on. I’d said to my coach that wanted to do something in the Classics and Sunday was a good start.
PEZ: What was your role on Sunday?
Ian: Russ Downing and I were to cover any groups that went early, not fours or fives, but bigger attacks.
PEZ: Did Juan Antonio’s ride on Saturday give you a boost?
Ian: Obviously the team was very happy with with that result – taking our first semi-classic; the whole team worked well, Russ Downing, in particular did a great job and Flecha finished it off perfectly. Not that we have pressure on us, but it was good to get that result because we were all relaxed on the Sunday.
This shot was taken at the start of Het Nieuwsblad a year ago – things have changed a bit in one year’s time.
PEZ: Where did you go clear?
Ian: I went clear quite early – Muziekbos (99 k) I figured that there would be a lot of fighting for position going into the cobbled climbs, not to mention crashes and guys having to walk on slippy cobbles – If you’re at the front your clear of all that. There were about 12 or 14 of us on the Kruisberg (110 k) and I led up there, riding at my own tempo, I didn’t intend to attack but I ended up on my own, then Flens got up to me.
PEZ: Did you think you could win, at that stage?
Ian: I felt very good on the Kwaremont and we got up to Traksel, but after that the wind got up and it seemed to get much colder. I was so cold that I couldn’t move my jaw to eat, the guys in the car were having to tear the tops off the gels for me. On the finishing circuits I just seized, I didn’t feel the best and went downhill from there; the last lap was just survival.
PEZ: You attacked on the run in.
Ian: I knew I couldn’t beat Bobby in the sprint, so I had to try, but when I attacked I could only raise about half power, it was so cold. When we got on the bus, after it the race, we were all freezing – Matt Hayman in particular was in a bad way.
PEZ: You were riding some big gears in that finale.
Ian: To tell the truth, I can’t remember, I was just trying to get something out of my legs – I knew Bobby would win a sprint and I had to try and get rid of him.
PEZ: Any ‘with hind sights?’
Ian: In those conditions, it’s pretty hard to think of anything – maybe I should have changed gloves? There was one occasion when I changed up instead of down because I couldn’t feel properly, I was thinking to myself; “Jesus! What are you doing, man!” but there was nothing I could do about it, it was just so cold and wet.
PEZ: Does third get you champagne at dinner?
Ian: Definitely not!
PEZ: You must believe you can win one of these races, now?
Ian: Yes, I’ve always believed that, but it was hard to prove it in smaller teams like Landbou and ISD. With Scott Sunderland in the car giving you information all the time and guys like Flecha and Hayman giving you advice, it’s massively different to what I was used to.
PEZ: How do you recover from a savage day like that?
Ian: I flew home to the UK on Sunday night, it was late when I got back and I had a bit of a lay in on Monday. I was tired and still cold on Monday and had a day off the bike. Tuesday, I did two hours easy; then Wednesday I’d normally do a big run but I had a bit of a sore throat, so I just did an hour on the rollers.
PEZ: What’s next?
Ian: The Eroika, Tirreno, Milan – San Remo then back to Belgium for the Classics.
PEZ: Sky, compared to Landbou and ISD?
Ian: Head and shoulders above – it was good to get the opportunity and experience with the smaller teams but it’s good to step up a level. The bikes are always perfect, the staff are organised and very helpful – it’s a great set up.
PEZ: Are you experiencing any ‘stick’ from other teams?
Ian: I’ve had no problems, maybe the odd remark, but there are riders who would like to be in a team like this and are maybe a little jealous – we’ve got an amazing sponsor.
PEZ: And what of the rest of 2010?
Ian: To do well at these races was a goal, so now I need to sit down and think about what comes next. I want to do a good job of supporting Boasson Hagen and Flecha in the Classics, and hopefully ride the Giro again, I enjoyed it last year – that would be nice.
With thanks to Ian for his time and congratulations again on a fine ride.