Ian Stannard came into Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne as a Classics unknown but left as a future star after finishing third behind Bobbie Traksel (Vacansoleil) and Rick Flens (Rabobank), and in the process sealed Sky’s second podium result of the weekend in Belgium.
Stannard, who signed from ISD-Neri at the end of 2009, has always dreamed of competing in the Classics. Raised in Essex, England, the 23-year-old wrote on his Sky blog, "When I was a kid I loved the pictures in the magazines of those Classics, when you can't make out the riders' kit, and when they take their glasses off it's like they've been wearing goggles, and everyone's crashed about ten times."
Today he has his chance to emulate the riders he grew up watching as he navigated through atrocious conditions to seal one of the UK’s best Belgian Classics results in recent years.
Shivering at the finish as he tried to warm up with a cup of coffee in his shaking hands, Stannard managed to stretch a weak grin across his dirt-caked face as he began to take questions from the press.
"This morning I wasn't losing motivation because of the weather forecast; I like this weather, It brings out the best in me," he said, his eyes swollen after more than five exhausting hours in the saddle.
"Before the Oude Kwaremont I attacked to have space. By doing so I could avoid crashes and choose my own line on the cobbles."
Stannard bridged across to Traksel with Flens and the trio worked well over the final 80 kilometres. Coming into the finale Stannard countered a move by Flens before launching an unsuccessful bid for glory. Re-caught by his companions he was immediately spat out of the back, but as the press room held its collective breath he gradually clawed his way back to the leaders.
Despite missing out on claiming Sky’s second win in as many days the Englishman remained unsurprisingly proud and upbeat.
"I'm very happy. I rate this result very high. I didn't achieve much on the road so far. It was so cold that in the end that I couldn't concentrate anymore."
Stannard is scheduled to race in Italy in the coming weeks but will return to the cobbles for Dwars door Vlaanderen and E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke.