Ian Stannard admitted he was starting to get back to his best after successfully defending his Omloop Het Nieuwsblad title in an exciting finish on Saturday.
Stannard, who was diagnosed with a fractured vertebrae after crashing in last March’s Gent-Wevelgem, found himself in a select four-man lead group heading into the final 40km in Belgium.
Crucially however he was the only non Etixx-Quick-Step rider in the group, leaving him at a distinct numerical disadvantage.
Undeterred, the Brit shut down a pair of late attacks on the run into Gent before outsprinting Niki Terpstra to become the first back-to-back winner of the race since Peter Van Petegem in 1997 and 1998.
Fellow Team Sky rider Luke Rowe was ninth while Sir Bradley Wiggins came home 44th, although he spent large parts of the race setting up his teammate for the win.
And Stannard, who made his comeback from his back injury at last summer’s Commonwealth Games before withdrawing early on from the road race, insists he is feeling good again.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Stannard told TeamSky.com after the race.
“It’s nice to do the double sweep at the race, but after the difficulties I had last year breaking my back it’s nice to have got myself back to where I was.
“Being with those three guys I knew they were all committed to trying to win. As a team they haven’t won it for 10 years and it’s a big one missing off Boonen’s palmares. I knew they were going to race hard.
“I just wanted to get a free ride for as long as I could. That was my idea. When they all started attacking me it wasn’t a great feeling.
“When Boonen went I was thinking ‘right, what do I do here?’ I knew if I rode him back I’d get attacked. I paced myself back a little bit. I could feel the wheel behind was trying hard to stay with me. So I felt like it was going pretty good and then I just took my chance.”
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