Having claimed the biggest win of his career at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in March, Ian Stannard appeared on the cusp of a breakout season with Team Sky. A crash at Ghent-Wevelgem later that month resulted in a fractured vertebrae and a four-month spell on the sidelines, derailing his season.
The 27-year-old made a comeback at the Commonwealth Games in August which proved to be a false dawn as an opening day crash at the Tour of Britain in early-September resulted in a fractured scaphoid, ending his season all together.
Yet to discuss his race schedule with the team for next season, Stannard is focused on training and getting some miles back into his legs having ridden just 34 race days as he looks towards a big 2015.
"It's been terrible and definitely one to forget," he told Teamsky.com of his reflections on the year. "My win at Het Nieuwsblad almost seems like a different year now. Things actually started quite well but they went downhill the moment I crashed at Ghent-Wevelgem. That said, I'm feeling fresh and I am really motivated for the new season."
Stannard made a return to racing in the velodrome at the Revolution track series in London last month having first enjoyed time a break from the bike, both physically and mentally.
"Because of the broken wrist I suffered in Liverpool [it] meant I couldn't go out training," he said. "I had a cast on for six weeks so I took the opportunity to go on holiday and forget about riding for a few weeks. I got the cast taken off last month and rode the first round of the Revolution Series. I'm just getting back into proper training now."
With his season built around the cobbled classics, Stannard explained that being forced out the races he'd specifically targeted in the spring and only being able to view them on television was a painful affair.
"Watching Flanders and Roubaix was the worst as I'd trained so hard from them but had the opportunity to ride them taken away from me right before them. It was similar with the Tour de France – I only watched a few stages of that as well for the same reasons."
Although he'd rather be racing than watching from an armchair, Stannard explained there was one benefit from his lay off.
"The longer I had off though, the more I became a fan of the sport again," he said. "When I'm racing I never read cycling magazines, reports or articles, but recently I've been doing a lot more of that. When you're competing, it's so intense and so full on that you relax by taking your mind completely off cycling, so it's been nice to have reignited that passion a bit.
While his passion for the sport was renewed, Stannard explained it was a double edged sword as he missed being part of the team which he joined in 2010.
"A lot of the staff and riders are good friends, so it was hard not spending time with them. I kept in touch with G and Swifty and a few of the other guys over the phone, and over coffee and things, but it wasn't the same. I missed the structure as well – there was so little to do whilst I was recovering, I ended up really bored.
The enforced lay off after his back injury also led to Stannard putting on weight and losing muscle mass, an experience that left him feeling not "good at all."
While his focus has been on the cobbled classics in recent season, Stannard explained that he won't set any targets for next year until a solid block of off-season training.
"I can't wait to get back on my bike and get my condition back," he said of his winter plans. "I've probably missed around 20,000km of riding this year so that's definitely set me back. We haven't discussed my race schedule yet as we're going to see how things go before getting my calendar nailed down.