For all the Grand Tour titles Team Sky / Team INEOS / INEOS Grenadiers have won, there has been one rider who has been there putting in the time at the front of the peloton.
Ian Stannard has been with the INEOS Grenadiers since it’s inception as Team Sky back in 2010. Stannard, a former British Road Race Champion has been a member of five Grand Tour winning teams and has taken seven of his own wins for the team, the Tour of Britain and winning back-to-back editions of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in 2014 and 2015.
Even a third place at Paris-Roubaix in 2016 probably wouldn’t outshine Stannard’s 2015 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad victory when he single handedly outfoxed Etixx-Quickstep, riding both Niki Terpstra and Tom Boonen off of his wheel.
Stannard said: “It’s disappointing to have to stop like this but it is clearly the right decision for my health and my family.
“We have explored all of the options this year to deal with my condition, and the team has been there with me every step of the way. I started to hope that I could manage the problem during lockdown, but as soon as I returned to racing I knew that my body wouldn’t be able to perform at any level anymore.”
INEOS Grenadiers Doctor Richard Usher said: “Ian was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis 12 months ago. It has caused him severe inflammation in the joints, and Ian has had pain in his wrists, knees and ankles. We have tried various treatments but ultimately Ian has taken the best decision for his long term health.”
Stannard graduated from British cycling academy alongside some other household names in cycling, Mark cavendish, Geraint Thomas and Ben Swift. Stannard rode for T-Mobile before moving to the pro ranks and Belgian team Landbouwkrediet, before joining Team Sky at the start of the 2010 season.
INEOS Grenadiers principal Dave Brailsford said: “Ian is a rider who gives so much to the race and his team mates and we all know that he always leaves it all out there on the road. He is one of the hardest, grittiest riders there is, whether racing hard on the cobbles of Belgium or pulling on the front at the Tour de France. He has been a core part of our team since day one and we will miss him, but he can look back proudly on a career that’s captured the true spirit of our sport and thrilled so many British cycling fans.”
Stannard continued: “Growing up, the Classics captured my imagination. I always wanted to go over and race on the cobbles. Back in the first year of the Team, I finished third at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in the worst conditions I’ve still ever raced in. Even now, our DS Servais Knaven still asks if I have dried out! I think there were only 26 finishers, and I’ve always thrived in those conditions.
“My favourite win was undoubtedly the second Omloop victory. I’d broken my back the year before, and the recovery process was the hardest I had to endure in my career. Then to beat three Quick-Step riders, in Belgium… It doesn’t get much better really. People still ask me about that win all the time.
“I wanted to keep racing and that competitive fire still burns within me. But I am proud of what I have achieved in the sport and look back at my career with great pride, especially racing for this team. It’s been a dream come true.”
From breaking his back to coming back and winning in 2015 shows the sheer determination and ability of Stannard. One of the grittiest riders in the peloton who wouldn’t be seen bragging about his achievements, it will be a long time before we see anyone with Stannards ability and determination.