Saturday 1st March 2014, and blue skies reigned over London, with barely a breath of wind to ruffle the lycra. However, in Flanders, East Belgium, the denouement of Europe’s first big road race of 2014 was unfolding in cold and damp conditions. At around 200 kms in length, taking in some of the region’s infamous cobbled climbs, this is a race for true hard men of the road, having been won in the past by such greats as Eddie Merckx and Roger de Vlaeminck.
On this day, with 30 kilometres to the finish, the race exploded into life with attacks from Edvald Boassen Haagen and Nikki Terpstra. Eventually, two riders stole a march off the front of the diminished group of contenders and fought out a long, tense sprint. The victor was Englishman Ian Stannard, who performed with outstanding strength and determination in the 2013 classic race Milan-San Remo, and who carves out several thousand kilometres per year at the front of the peloton on behalf of his SKY team mates.
Today he powered away from the great Belgian rider, Greg van Avermaert, about 600 metres from the finishing line and held on by half a wheel length to gain just reward for all his previous selfless efforts.
The cold and wet conditions may have inconvenienced some of the more fancied riders, but big Ian revels in this type of adversity. Chapeau to him for a great win.