Robert Stannard has signed off his time with Mitchelton-BikeExchange with a win; his fifth of the season. New Zealand’s favourite Aussie took the win in Il Piccolo Lombardia ahead of Italy’s Andrea Bagioli and Clément Champoussin as he gets ready to make the step up to World Tour level in 2019.
It’s been a standout year for Robert Stannard and Il Piccolo Lombardia was just the icing on an already pretty decent cake of a season! Victories across the season from January – where he won the youth classification at the New Zealand Cycle Classic – to October have included one stage of Le Tour de Bretagne Cycliste, the Giro del Belvedere, the Gran Premio Sportivi di Poggiana and the individual time trial of the Giro Ciclistico d’Italia.
At Il Piccolo Lombardia, the U23 equivalent of the World Tour monument Il Lombardia, the 90th edition of the race saw attacks go from the drop of the flag; although all moves had come to nought with 50km of the race’s 174.7km covered. Eventually a trio of riders escaped and built a lead of 3 minutes before the race brought them back to within a minute with the iconic Madonna del Ghisallo to climb.
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8.15km in length and with sections reaching 14% and 12% respectively, the climb of the Madonna del Ghisallo threatened to be decisive despite peaking with just under 60km remaining. It proved to be the case as the peloton split up and eventually Stannard found himself part of a group of 30 riders at the head of the race.
On the Colle Brianza with 20km remaining the winning move finally took shape as Stannard took his place in a quartet of riders at the front who’d survived the fragmenting of the larger group over the previous 40km. Eventually five more riders joined them and it was from here that the group made their way to the line to contest the sprint. Stannard went early but did enough to fend off the challenges of Bagioli and Champoussin; securing the win with Champoussin’s teammate Nicolas Prodhomme fourth across the line.
After the race Stannard reflected on the ideal way to bring the curtain down on his time with the World Tour development team. “It’s awesome to have been able to get the victory today, there’s no better way to finish my last race with Mitchelton-BikeExchange and no better way of saying thank you to everyone involved with the team for everything they have done for me over the last couple of years.”
“There were nine of us going into the final and I was saving myself for the sprint, so I followed all the moves over the last 20km and shut them down because I felt confident in my own sprint and I wanted to make sure the group stayed together.”
“I attacked over the last few hundred metres and no-one managed to come around me and I think tactically we played it perfectly today.”
Stannard will now make the step up World Tour level with Mitchelton-Scott, joining a roster that currently includes Jack Bauer and Dion Smith, as well as Simon and Adam Yates, Mikel Mieve, Esteban Chaves, Matteo Trentin and Daryl Impey. Stannard’s World Tour team experience will actually begin this week as he lines up for Mitchelton-Scott at Tre Valli Varesine and Milano-Torino; Wednesday & Thursday early mornings NZT respectively.