Stannard looking for big improvement in 2012

Speaking to Cyclingnews at Team Sky's winter training camp on the Spanish island of Mallorca, Ian Stannard has revealed that he is ready to translate the big strides that he has made in recent weeks onto the road when his season gets underway next month. The 24-year-old from Chelmsford, England, enjoyed the best year of his career to date in 2011. A stage victory at the Tour of Austria and a late season top five finish at Paris-Tours were the highlights, while he was also part of Sky's Vuelta team that helped deliver podium spots for Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome. And sandwiched in between all that was a crucial role for Team GB at the Road World Championships where new Team Sky colleague Mark Cavendish took gold.

"I’d say I’m in considerably better shape now than I was this time last year," he said. "I think there’s several reasons for that. I’m settling into the team more and the team is finding its way more too with regards to coaching. Also I’ve grown up more as a person and the experience I gained in the Vuelta last year has helped to shape my winter training.

"I had a couple of crashes in training towards the end of last year so when I arrived here in Majorca for our initial stint in December I was a little bit behind the other guys. But I really committed over Christmas and I am seeing the benefits now, especially in my power output."

Being at the Team Sky training camp has really given Stannard the hunger to get started, and finding himself surrounded by experienced teammates such as Juan Antonio Flecha and Jeremy Hunt offers a valuable opportunity to take on board their advice.

"I'm looking forward to getting stuck in now," he said. "All the new bikes and new kit here at the camp just makes you want to race again. Pinarello have produced a new frame for us. We used it briefly at the Vuelta and it was really nice. We’ve made a few extra tweaks off the back of that and it’s riding really nicely, you can see the improvement from the previous years.

"I’m benefitting from a lot of the experienced guys on the team. Guys like Flecha have so much experience that you can’t help but soak it up and take their advice. He’s a great guy to have around. Anything you need to know or that you’re not sure about he’ll help you with. The same goes for Jez. He’s got tons and tons of experience and has seen it all before. He almost knows you as a rider just from observing and can see the signs in the younger riders and relate to how he was a few years ago."

Stannard will be starting his racing year off in the Gulf next month with back-to-back races and will then turn his attention to the Classics, which are always a highlight of the season for him.

"I'm starting at Qatar and then Oman - I’ve done it for the last few seasons and it works well for me," he said. "A lot of the Classics riders tend to do those events as it’s nice weather but hard racing too.

"After Qatar and Oman it’s all still a bit up in the air but it’d be great to be at Milan San-Remo and help Mark [Cavendish] win it in the rainbow jersey. Then after that there’s the big races in Belgium. I really enjoy racing in Belgium. The crowds are so enthusiastic and I love the hard roads and the cobbles. Flanders and Roubaix are the pinnacle of it all and one day I’d love to be up there on the podium."

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Mark joined the Cyclingnews team in October 2011 and has a strong background in journalism across numerous sports. His interest in cycling dates back to Greg LeMond's victories in the 1989 and 1990 Tours, and he has a self-confessed obsession with the career and life of Fausto Coppi.