Sky's Stannard in Vuelta: "We've got quite a job to do"
Ian Stannard has barely been seen at this year's Vuelta, but there's a good reason for it: he's been too busy working behind the scenes.
The 24-year-old Sky rider is one of the team domestiques who has been doing a lot of the spadework on each of the day's stages before the tv broadcasts starts.
Not a fan of the heat, he suffered in the first 10 days or so, but ever since the race transferred north (on Tuesday), he's appreciated the drop in temperatures.
"It's been going well", Stannard told Cycling Weekly on Thursday morning. "Since it got cooler, I've been feeling stronger but pretty much all round it's been all right."
"We've got quite a job to do, though, with Froomey and now Bradley in the lead."
"That said, it's been easier riding on the front than fighting at the back of the bunch."
"There hasn't been a super, super stage, for me, it's been bloody hilly hasn't it?"
"But I enjoyed the day with the cross-winds [stage seven], then CJ winning and getting the lead. There have been more ups than downs."
With so much climbing, Stannard is on bottle duty as well as "looking after Bradley as much as possible."
Stannard during the Vuelta's individual time trial stage on Monday
Even before the Tour of Spain, Stannard says, he could see Wiggins is in exceptionally good race condition in 2011, "right the way through from the Nationals and then in the Tour until he crashed."
"In training and so on, he's been really good, super lean, just cruising really."
"It's all good. It'd be nice if the team could take the jersey all the way to Madrid."
According to Stannard, though, most of the peloton reckon Sky have not picked the easiest Vuelta to do that.
"Everybody's complaining about how this is a really tough Tour of Spain in the peloton. All you hear is guys moaning about it."
"Maybe [unlike in previous years] it's too hard as a preparation race for the Worlds now. We'll soon see."
Today's stage, 167 kilometres long from Ponteaeras to Pontevedra is one of the very few remaining opportunities for the sprinters. Marcel Kittel (Skil-Shimano), who won stage seven to Talavera, has already announced he's quitting after trying to take a second victory today. But with a slight kick up at the end, it could well be better for Chris Sutton (Sky) to double his wins in this year's Vuelta too.
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Vuelta a Espana 2011: Stage reports
Stage 11: Wiggins takes overall lead as Moncoutie wins stage
Stage 10: Brit Froome moves into overall Vuelta lead after time trial
Stage nine: Martin wins as Wiggins moves further up GC
Stage eight: Rodriguez wins again to take overall lead
Stage seven: Kittel wins chaotic bunch sprint
Stage six: Sagan takes Vuelta stage win in controversial circumstances
Stage five: Rodriguez takes second win for Katusha but Chavanel holds on
Stage four: Moreno wins first mountain skirmish at Sierra Nevada
Stage three: Lastras solos to stage and takes red jersey
Stage two: Sutton grabs stage win to set things right for Sky
Stage one: Leopard-Trek win opening TTT to put Fuglsang in front
Vuelta a Espana 2011: Photo galleries
By Graham Watson
Stage 11 photo gallery
Stage 10 photo gallery
Stage nine photo gallery
Stage eight photo gallery
Stage seven photo gallery
Stage six photo gallery
Stage five photo gallery
Stage four photo gallery
Stage three photo gallery
Stage two photo gallery
Stage one photo gallery
Vuelta a Espana 2011: TV guide
Vuelta a Espana 2011: ITV4 TV schedule
Vuelta a Espana 2011: British Eurosport TV schedule
ITV to show 2011 Vuelta