Forget Chris Froome’s 80-kilometer solo break over the Colle delle Finestre at the 2018 Giro d’Italia.
Michal Kwiatkowski outsprinting Peter Sagan and Julian Alaphilippe to win Milano-Sanremo in 2017? Nah.
Tao Geoghegan-Hart’s rise from domestique to Giro champion this autumn? Wrong again.
Wearing the number one of defending champion on his back, the Burly brit outfoxed and overpowered a Deceuninck-Quick-Step trio to take a victory that plucks at the heartstrings in a way that Brailsford’s boys have never achieved since.
Stannard went away with a terrible trio of Stijn Vandenbergh, Tom Boonen, and Niki Terpstra with 40km to go, and with a chase group not far behind, was able to jump aboard the Quick-Step train as his three rivals put the hammer down to distance the field. The 33-year-old was on the back foot, and Boonen, Terpstra, and Vandenbergh knew it.
First, they attacked the lonely Brit.
When that didn’t work, they rounded on each other and started chasing their teammates’ attacks, hungry for personal rather than team glory.
Stannard hung tough, responded when he needed to, and finally made his move with three kilometers to go, drawing out last-man-standing Terpstra. He duly dispatched the Dutchman with aplomb in the final sprint, taking his second-straight Omloop victory.
The result was one that temporarily shifted Team Sky from grand tour robo-squad to plucky underdog, with even a rival team staffer saying afterward that although “Team Sky are maybe not the most popular among the other teams, but everyone cheered this win for Stannard.”
Though Team Sky/Ineos returned to the status of punchbag for armchair critics as soon as Froome began his march toward his second Tour title that summer, Stannard’s victory lives on as a rare moment in the franchise’s history that fans of all persuasion are happy to cheer for.
Even the most stalwart anti-Sky spectator would have to tip the hat for what that almost unfathomable win really is – a tenacious and tactical masterstroke that socked one to the Quick-Step kings of. the cobbles.
For one of the few times in the British squad’s history, one of its riders snatched a victory through plucky racecraft rather than scientific savvy and financial superiority. Stannard’s victory was as far as it’s possible to get away from the calculated play-by-play of a Tour de France as he clattered over the cobbled streets of Ghent, and at the time, was one of the team’s threadbare haul of classics wins.
It was a victory forged in old-school racing acumen rather than nutritional interventions and a bus full of personalized pillows.
If nothing else, the final throwdown of that year’s Omloop is one of the few passages in recent racing history to endure the passing of time. There are endless YouTube clips of Stannard dieseling away from the taunting trio. No matter what your nationality or team allegiances, it makes for a heart-warming watch every time – unless you’re the Belgian commentator in the clip below, of course.
Five years later, and “Yogi” has pulled the plug on his long career as he succumbs to the nagging pains of arthritis. Nevertheless, Stannard more than made his mark in the history of pro cycling that day in Flanders.
So long Stannard, and thanks for the memories.