Winning the British elite road race title? Simple; go in the early break with a team-mate, drive to get a decent gap, ride tempo and when the opposition start to bring you back, step on the gas, crack them, then drop your breakaway companions to win in solitary splendour. That’s if your name is Ian Stannard – and that’s exactly how he came to be standing on the top step of the podium at Ampleforth Abbey on Sunday after 182 kilometres around a picturesque but tough parcours in North Yorkshire.
Stannard began to acquire his taste for standing on podiums back in 2003, with placings in the British youth road and cyclo cross championships.
Within a year he was national junior TT champion and winner of the junior Tour of Ireland.
The progression continued in 2005 with wins in junior road races in Belgium and Switzerland, not to mention a European junior team pursuit championship.
For 2006 he was with Dutch team Van Vliet and stepping up to gold medal level in the European U23 team pursuit championship as well as winning the U23 Stuttgart Six Day.
He won the traditional season opening Eddie Soens GP in England and took out Milano – Busseto, ending the season as a stagiaire with T-Mobile.
No nonsense Belgian squad Landbouwkrediet was ‘home’ for 2008 with third in the GC of the Tour of Britain probably his strongest result.
Luca Scinto’s ISD squadra then welcomed him for 2009 with a TTT win in the Coppi-Bartali and a Giro finish coming his way.
But the Sky was the limit for 2010 and as well as a heroic third in a brutal Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, he shared in another TTT win in the Tour of Qatar and a hard earned a bronze medal in a tough British Elite road championship in Pendle.
The 2011 season saw Stannard as part of a quality break in Gent-Wevelgem; away with Sylvain Chavanel (QuickStep & France) and Liquigas flyers Maciej Bodnar (Poland) and Peter Sagan (Slovakia), the big man from Chelmsford then made a solo move within site of the finish only for a feral peloton to swamp him in the last two hundred metres.
Fourth place in the British road race champs was followed by his first individual professional win, a stage in the Tour of Austria.
In the Vuelta he was part of the Sky team which backed Froome and Wiggins to the podium before tailing his season nicely with fourth in Paris-Tours.
This May saw him ride hundreds of kilometres tempo on the front of the Giro peloton for Mark Cavendish.
The fact that he had recovered well from the Giro was under scored by his annihilation of the field in the recent Smithfield Nocturne criterium in London,
Along with Ben Swift he went into Sunday’s race as joint favourite.
But it was Stannard who went up the road first – and stayed there, all day.
Congratulations on a fine win, Ian – what was the Sky plan for Sunday?
“To keep the jersey in the team.
“I’m going well and Swifty has been going well, so it was likely to be one of us.
“But the thing with the Nationals is that they’re not like a European race where there’s a pattern; a break goes eventually and then you sit back for the finalé.
“In the Nationals it breaks up early and there aren’t the teams behind with the strength in depth to ride the move down.
“It’s one of the hardest races you’ll ride all year – because of the way it develops you have to be ahead of the race.”
Endura didn’t get it right, did they?
“I’m not sure what their plan was, I think that they were maybe over-confident and you can’t race against a team like Sky in that fashion.
“It seemed that as long as Beckinsale was in the break they were happy for him to be part of Endura – even though he’s in their mountain bike team.
“But when he was dropped from the break they seemed surprised and rode really, really hard to get us back.
“One lap we had seven minutes then it was down to two-and-a-half minutes.
“I knew that they must have ridden super-hard to do that and that they wouldn’t have much left after an effort like that.
“I upped the pace at that stage – and I knew that even if we came back we still had three men behind.
“Where they went wrong was to try to ride us down too hard, too quickly, if they paced themselves better they might have been more successful.
“The first time on the small circuit, I went really hard, I knew that would hurt them, up ‘til that point we’d just been riding.”
Did you agree with Alex (Dowsett) that you would go away for the win?
“On a hard circuit like that I wasn’t in too much of a rush to go solo – I knew that I could get away but was happy to bide my time.
“It was ‘on’ all day, like I said, you won’t ride many harder races during the season; I averaged big watts.”
What was your average watts output for the race?
When does that nice jersey get a first outing?
“The Tour of Poland; I’m looking forward to that, but I have a lot to live up to after Gee (Geraint Thomas) and Bradley’s performances whilst wearing it.”
You’ve obviously recovered well from the Giro.
“Within two or three days of finishing the Giro I felt better – and within four or five days I’d pretty much recovered.
“You have to keep riding the bike, not hard, but keep pedaling – it would be easy to lie in bed but you don’t want your body to shut down.
“If you keep riding then you recover on the bike.
“I rode the ZLM Tour (won by Cavendish) and that tuned me back up.”
How was the Stelvio?
“The Stelvio, ha!
“That day was about helping our two Colombians – Uran and Henao – get in position for the Mortirolo.
“There wasn’t really a gruppetto going up there, everyone just ground up it.
“The gruppetto formed off the descent, we just rode up, I’m quite comfortable in that situation – it’s not the same as having to race up it.”
You were 11th in the final time trial of the Giro and seventh in the Tirreno TT, is the TT something you might make a science of?
“I tend to go better in them at the end of a stage race; in both of those rides it was the final stage – and with it being the last stage you give it everything
“I produce good watts, but I struggle to get a really aero position.
“It’s not something that I think I’ll specialise in, no.”