Who wasn’t happy for that big lug Ian Stannard?
His huge win in the semi-classic Omloop Het Nieuwsblad over the eternal second Greg Van Avermaet of BMC was a triumph for all lunch-pail workers.
In direct contrast to his Sky team’s meticulous, no-variable-left-unscrutinzed approach to winning races, Stannard simply bulled his way to victory in the cold and freezing conditions.
Stannard did it the old fashioned way, the hardman way, the “lets get on with it” way. The big Englishman has always struck us as the dump truck in Sky’s arsenal of skinny climbers and more famous riders.
He’s a throw-back guy with a timeless mug that comes straight from the trenches, the coal mines, the brick factory. He’s like the journeyman boxer in the movies trying for one last score so he and his best gal Maggie can escape the mob and buy that pub and make a new life.
Stannard kept his mouth shut and his head down last year when Sky skipped Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico to train for the classics on the Spanish island of Tenerife. The strategy failed miserably and will not be repeated this year. As Europcar sports director Andy Flickinger said last season, “To prepare for the classics you need to ‘eat’ stress and cobbles.”
Big lug Ian Stannard is a man of simple tastes: he likes to eat cobbles. On to Flanders, ya big diesel.
Then the day after it was time for Tom Boonen and Sep Vanmarcke to show everyone the correct use of crosswinds. The Omega-Pharma Quickstep and Belkin squads went full gas and dropped everyone in the entire peloton. It was like a two team race and Johan Van Summeren looked like a blue orhpan in that breakaway group.
We still haven’t recovered from the shock of seeing Rabobank orange replaced by optic Belkin green but the Dutch squad with the US tech sponsor certainly appeared well-drilled, aggressive and opportunistic. Vanmarcke almost needs a leash to hold him back — the man can’t help but attack. As he said, he rides to win but like Sylvain Chavanel, sometimes he throws too many attacks and misses the final, race-deciding move. Still, Belkin made the podium Saturday and Sunday, a Omloop-KBK throw-down.
Tom Boonen continues to look scary good and must be giving rival Fabian Cancellara extra motivation to keep training hard. He’s got the turbo kick back and even more important, he’s taking risks again in the sprints.
Pretty impressive that in Omloop he spent one of the coldest days ever on a bike and even vomited but the next day he blows past everyone to win KBK. Let’s hope he stays upright until April 6th — we’re just a month away, folks — for his epic showdown at Flanders with Spartacus. If we could bribe the wife, that’s a plane ticket we’d kill to have.
Omega and Belkin showed their classics-style firepower while BMC nearly pulled out the win with Van Avermaet. We’re in agreement that the Belgian didn’t mess up his sprint against Stannard — who would have thought the big locomotive would jump from that far out and hold on until the line?
Nevertheless, the red and black rode showed once again that new team manager Allan Peiper has them organized and motivated. No confusion about roles and juggled agendas. Van Avermaet was the captain and even without Hushovd who had crashed out, Taylor Phinney rode a strong race in support.
We can’t wait to see BMC at work in the classics and now that Sky also seems to be finally cracking the classics a bit, this sure looks like a fabulous show.