Road

Ian Stannard forced to retire due to rheumatoid arthritis

Ineos Grenadiers' team doctor indicated they have tried ‘various treatments but ultimately Ian has taken the best decision for his long-term health’

Ian Stannard, one of the founding members of Team Sky, has been forced to retire due to rheumatoid arthritis. According to the Team Ineos web site, the classics specialist—who twice won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in 2014 and 2015—was diagnosed with the disease 12 months ago.

“It has caused him severe inflammation in the joints, and Ian has had pain in his wrists, knees, and ankles,” team doctor Richard Usher said. “We have tried various treatments but ultimately Ian has taken the best decision for his long-term health.”

“It’s disappointing to have to stop like this but it is clearly the right decision for my health and my family,” Stannard said. “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.”

Stannard turned professional in 2008 with the modest Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner team in Belgium before moving to the WorldTour level with Team Sky in 2010. And he has been a force in their classics team ever since. Immediately at ease on the cobbles, Stannard would also go on to finish third in the 2016 edition of Paris-Roubaix, although the Tour of Flanders proved to be too long and too hilly for him. But any such limitations did not get in the way of Stannard winning a British national championship title in 2012 or finishing in the top sixth in Milano-Sanremo in 2013. Meanwhile, he proved to be a trusted member of the team’s Tour de France lineup, providing protection for his team leaders on the tricky flat and windy stages.

Ineos Grenadiers principal Dave Brailsford said, “Ian is a rider who gives so much to the race and his teammates 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.”

Stannard twice won the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and was on the podium at Paris-Roubaix. Photo: Tim De Waele | Getty Images

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 favorite 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,” he added. “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.”