The 2013 British National Cycling Championships are coming to Scotland this week. For the first time the Time Trial Championships will take place over the same weekend as the Road Race, moving from its previous, Vuelta clashing, slot of early September.
This is the final step in bringing together the organisation of national championships in road racing and time trialling in Britain which were still organised separately as a hangover from the historic split between road racing and time trialling that supposedly ended in 1959 but has actually taken a lot longer to reconcile.
The Time Trials take place around the small East Ayrshire town of Stewarton on Thursday 20th May. Elite Men race on 2 laps of 24.6km while Under 23s and Elite Women race a shortened version of the same loop with 2 laps at 17.6km.
The roads are exposed and fairly straight and run through rolling farmland without any major climbs. Net height gain is around 100m a lap and there are only 5 reasonably sharp corners so I would expect fairly fast times and probably one to suit the TT specialists. Thursday’s forecast is for sunshine with a light westerly wind which means an initial headwind but the final 6km for women and 11km for men of each lap will have a tailwind.
In the women’s race defending 2011 and 2012 champion Wendy Houvenaghel has retired from cycling after her Olympic disappointment at London, while 2009 and 2010 champion Emma Pooley is concentrating on her PhD. This leaves a trio of Olympic pursuit gold medallists in Danielle King, Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell, the time trial specialist and 4 times second place finisher Julia Shaw and a gaggle of professional roadies led by Laura’s big sister Emma Trott, Katie Colcough and Lizzie Armitstead.
My bet: Julia Shaw to triumph on this fast course.
The men’s race is a slightly weaker field with the pre Tour start failing to attract the big guns in the form of Sir Bradley Wiggins or Chris Froome. Giro TT winning Alex Dowsett is the red hot favourite ahead of domestic based time trial specialist and high speed postman Matthew Bottrill and another ex pursuiter turned road race pro Steve Cummings. Team Sky send Ian Stannard, Luke Rowe and somewhat bizarrely Ben Swift, but hopefully he’ll at least make it round without getting lost on Thursday...
My bet: Hard to look past the form man Alex Dowsett.
The Road Race by contrast is held on a tight city centre criterium course in Glasgow on Sunday 23rd June. 37 corners in a 14.2km circuit mean this is definitely not one for Albertina to triumph on!
The Elite women will race 8 laps while the Elite Men will race 13 laps. Total height gain per lap is around 100m and although there are a couple of little steep digs, significantly the final 2km is pan flat. The race is very much being seen as a rehearsal for the Commonwealth Games Road Race in 2014 which will be held on a very similar course next year.
The field for the Elite women looks very strong with all the European based pros present for the race. A few years ago the absence of 10 time winner Nicole Cooke following her retirement might have seen the competition diminished but the new breed of both domestic and European based pros look really strong this year. The Dolmans Boels trio of Lizzie Armitstead, Lucy Martin and Emma Trott will be hard to beat as always while defending champion Sharon Laws is without teammates and coming back from major injury.
Given the fairly flat course the 5 strong Wiggle Honda team of track specialists Elinor Barker, Dani King, Amy Roberts, Jo Rowsell and Laura Trott will also be a force to be reckoned with. Hannah Barnes of MG Maxifuel may also be keen to stand on the top step again after her Nocturne victory was first disqualified and then reinstated last week.
My bet: World Junior Champion Lucy Garner to win a messy bunch sprint from a select peloton of 10-15 riders.
Since their formation Team Sky have dominated the men’s British Championships, sending strong teams and winning with Geraint Thomas, Bradley Wiggins and Ian Stannard. Given the flat criterium course their best hope would probably lie with Ben Swift in a bunch sprint, but if it’s a bunch sprint would you bet on Swifty beating Cavendish??? No. Instead expect defending champion Stannard and Jonathan Tiernan-Locke to animate the race with repeated early attacks to try and wear down Cav.
Adam Blythe of BMC has a strong team mate in Steve Cummings and the ability to win a sprint from a select group, while David Millar is sure to put in a doomed solo attack on one of the last lap climbs with 8km to go before being caught in the flat finale. Other European based Pros include Alex Dowsett who may be fresh from time trial victory and the NetApp Endura quartet of Russell Downing, Jonathan Mcevoy, Erick Rowsell and Scott Thwaites.
If this course were run last year, Mark Cavendish would be a red hot favourite but his only teammate this year is Andy Fenn, a decent leadout man, but not someone who can chase breaks for him all day on a 185km course. However an intriguing subplot may be the dress rehearsal nature of this route for next year’s Commonwealth Games. With a population of just 80,000 the Isle of Man is only 0.1% of the British Cycling baseline population and it might be expected that Cav would have to fight his own corner again next year against stronger English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish teams as well as the rest of the Commonwealth. Yet of the 140 starters in this year’s road race I make at least 6 riders eligible to represent the Isle of Man next year with Sky’s Peter Kennaugh, Jonny Bellis returning from his horrific injuries to hopefully better form and health, 2010 Delhi Road Race veterans Mark Christian and Christopher Whorral as well as globetrotting Christian Varley who has returned from a year in America to a domestic contract with Node 4 Giordano.
Don’t be entirely surprised to see a few Manx faces on the front of the peloton in the middle stages of the race pulling it back to help their sprinting team mates and if that happens to work in Cav’s favour too... well that’s a nice coincidence.
My bet: A sprinters 1-2-3 of Cavendish, Swift and Yanto Barker of Team UK Youth.
Highlights are on UK television at 7pm on Monday 24 June on ITV4.