He labored through the classics, heavy with Sky expectation and with his own ambitions. It wasn’t meant to be in the frozen Belgian spring, but Sky’s Ian Stannard doesn’t mind much now: He’s about to make his first Tour de France start. The 2013 British national runner-up — he was beaten by Mark Cavendish for the crown over the weekend — will arrive in Corsica today.
“I’m super excited about it and I can’t wait to get going. I don’t really know what to expect if I’m honest. You always hear about how massive it is and how fast and stressful the racing is, so I’m keen to see what it’s like,” he told his Sky communications team. “I’ve watched the Tour de France all my life and it’s a dream come true to be riding in the race.”
Stannard will line up in support of five-star favorite Chris Froome, who finished second last year but has shown complete dominance in this year’s early season stage races, winning the Tour of Oman, Critérium International, Tour de Romandie, and the Critérium du Dauphiné.
Joining Stannard and Froome on Sky’s Tour squad are Brits Geraint Thomas and Peter Kennaugh, Australia’s Richie Porte, Spain’s David Lopez, Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen, and Belarusians Kanstantsin Siutsou and Vasil Kiryienka. Froome enters as the favorite, but the pressures of expectation (and Saxo-Tinkoff’s Alberto Contador, among others) will make the racing plenty hard on Froome and Sky.
“It’s going to be hard riding for Froomey given that he’s the overwhelming favorite. The other teams will all be looking to put one over on us but we’ve got big ambitions of our own and we’re all ready to race,” Stannard said. “The Dauphine is always a good indicator of the condition of the GC contenders and Chris has proved he’s the strongest rider heading into the race. It’s going to be great to support him and we’ve all got full faith in his chances of success.”
A powerful rouleur, the 26-year-old Stannard will put in most of his work when the cameras are off, looking to bring back breaks and haul Sky on the flatter stages.
“I’ve got two jobs — work hard and then work even harder. I’m not going to give anyone any rest and I’m looking forward to hurting some other teams by drilling it hard on the flat,” the 6-foot-3 Stannard said.
“That’s going to be my main role, keeping the breakaways in check and protecting the rest of the team leading into the climbs. Once the road goes uphill, it’ll be a matter of hanging on for dear life, but my role at that point will be done.”
Stannard will get his shot on Saturday in Corsica, as the 100th Tour de France begins.