Ian Stannard defends Omloop Het Nieuwsblad title in Belgium

Ian Stannard beats Niki Terpstra in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Stannard has now won the prestigious one-day race in Belgium twice, the only Briton to do so.

Britain's Ian Stannard held off the challenge of three Etixx - Quick-Step riders to defend his Omloop Het Nieuwsblad title in Belgium.

An Etixx - Quick-Step rider had looked likely to win, given their numerical and tactical advantage on the run-in.

However, Stannard covered attacks from Tom Boonen and Stijn Vandenbergh before beating Niki Terpstra in a sprint.

"After the difficulties I had last year breaking my back it's nice to have got myself back to where I was," he said.

Stannard, who remains the only Briton to have won the title, benefited from some excellent work by his team-mates Sir Bradley Wiggins and Bernhard Eisel.

Wiggins and Eisel put in some big turns at the front of the peloton to help Stannard conserve energy and keep out of trouble on a difficult route that took in several cobbled sections as the race meandered through Flanders.

"I felt a bit of pressure when you've got a Tour de France winner putting it all on the line for you," Stannard told his team's website.

"You can only really finish it off can't you."

Wiggins has his eye on the bigger prize of winning the Paris-Roubaix one-day classic on Sunday 12 April - his likely last race for Team Sky - so his 44th place finish, more than five minutes behind Stannard, will be of no great concern given the work he did earlier in the race.

His efforts paved the way for Stannard to follow the attack of Boonen, Vandenbergh and Terpstra with around 40km remaining.

Stannard conserved more energy by riding in the slipstream of the Etixx - Quick-Step trio as they rode hard, looking to extend their advantage over the chasing pack.

As the race reached its climax, Boonen and Vandenbergh attacked on separate occasions, attempting to tire out Stannard and help Terpstra triumph.

However, Stannard responded and still had the legs to race clear and break up the trio inside the final 3km.

Terpstra, who won last year's Paris-Roubaix and is a one-day specialist, gave chase but then inexplicably led out the sprint, allowing Stannard to drop back and pick the right moment to make his decisive move.

Boonen, who finished third, said: "There is a thin line between a great race and a costly mistake and unfortunately we took the risk of not waiting for the sprint, and it didn't work out.

"Congratulations to Stannard. He rode a smart tactical race and his reactions to our attacks were impressive. His sprint was also strong."