IAN Stannard’s absence from races this year is going to be felt.

Wilmslow based former British champion Stannard has been forced to retire from professional cycling after being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

The 33-year-old has spent the last decade of his career with what is now the Ineos Grenadiers, having been a founding member of Team Sky back in 2010.

Ineos Grenadiers team principal Sir Dave Brailsford said: “Ian is a rider who gives so much to the race and his team-mates 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 and thrilled so many British cycling fans.”

Stannard ends his pro career with seven wins under his belt, including back-to-back victories at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in 2014 and 2015 and stages of the Tour of Britain in 2016 and 2018.

The 2012 British road race champion also took a notable third place at Paris-Roubaix in 2016.

Stannard was first diagnosed with arthritis 14 months ago.

He continued to race in 2020, starting his season in Australia in January prior to lockdown, but appeared only once after the season resumed in late July – withdrawing from the Tour of Poland on stage four.

“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 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, who graduated from British Cycling’s academy alongside the likes of Geraint Thomas, Mark Cavendish and Ben Swift, was valued as a powerful domestique when not riding for himself, and was part of three Tour de France winning teams.