It's National Champs week! Jens has a big long list for the results, but which will you be watching out for? Here are five that I'll be paying particular attention to - for the racing mostly, but one for the politics! Any you think we should be watching out for - or any tv coverage we can find - put it in the comments.
1. Netherlands - aka Can anyone beat Vos?
The last time Marianne Vos was beaten in a day race or a stage race was at the end of April, so she has to be the favourite for the Netherlands title... But will she take it? Last year, Loes Gunnewijk was out by herself for a lot of the race, until Vos bridged across in the final part of the race - but didn't attack her team-mate, so Gunnewijk took the win.
So it may seem like Vos has this one in the bag, but bear in mind how many amazing Dutch riders there are (I'm thinking of Kirsten Wild and Martine Bras as challengers, but there are LOADS more) and how there is huge competition to get places in the Worlds team - and how they're all super-competitive (in a friendly way) they are anyway...! I'm looking forward to seeing how this race plays out! As you can see, it was on tv last year (thanks to the fantastic person who uploaded it!), so we'll likely see some of it on tv, which is always good!
2. Italian Champs - it's hard to win this one!
The Italian Champs are another one where the field is stacked with incredible riders - it's always hard, as evidenced by the fact that when Monia Baccaille won it last year, she was the first woman to take the national champs jersey for two consecutive years since Maria Canins "the flying mother" did it in 1989... Can Baccaille make history again, and take it for a third year in a row? There are so many world-class riders lining up - including Baccaille's MCipollini team-mate and 2010 World Champion, Tatiana Gederzo (I'm not sure if current World Champ, Giorgia Bronzini, will be back from winning practically every race she rode in the USA) - and more great riders than there are space to mention.
3. UK Champs - this one's personal!
When the riders lined up last year, Nicole Cooke was riding for the chance to win the national jersey for the tenth year in a row. She loves the national jersey, and was furious when Emma Pooley attacked and won it. There was a definite case of "mike in face straight after the race" going on, as Cooke had a rant about how Pooley and her Cervélo team-mates Sharon Laws and Lizzie Armitstead had ridden as a team, and it was unfair etc. (Watch the interviews at the end of the vid for a typical Pooley self-deprecation and great comments)
So what will happen this year? With Armitstead, Laws, Martin and Pooley from Garmin-Cervélo, Cooke from MCipollini-Giambenini, Katie Colclough from HTC-Highroad and Emma Trott from Nederland Bloeit this is the best turn-out for riders in pro teams. And then, of course, my favourite UK team, Horizon, and solo riders like Helen Wyman in her Kona jersey... this will be a tough race. My absolute ideal scenario is that Sharon Laws would win it (if you haven't read the interview I did with her, please read it now!) - and given that the British Champs have had a dodgy history in recent years, with accidents, taking the hills out for the women etc, of course I'm hoping it's a safe and competitive race.
I can't see the National Champs on the Eurosport schedules, but I'll often wrong at things like this - so if you find coverage, add it to the comments! And again, massive thanks to the anonymous internet stars who put things like this up for us, I appreciate it.
4. USA time trial - looking ahead to the Worlds and 2012
This will be a fascinating race. Kristin Armstrong is a former World and Olympic TT Champion, who retired in 2009 to have a baby, but has been woo-ed back to the roads by the London Olympics. She rides for USA domestic team Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12, and on the one hand is at a disadvantage, because she doesn't get to compete against the pro riders very often - but on the other hand, has a HUGE advantage, because she can focus purely on the ITT, whereas the pro team riders have other goals as well.
Apparently whoever wins the ITT gets an automatic spot for the Worlds with Team USA. There are some great TTers competing against Armstrong - Amber Neben and Evelyn Stevens from HTC Highroad are the obvious choices - and Armstrong was pretty bashed up in a huge crash in the Nature Valley Grand Prix last week, so although Armstrong has won all her recent ITTs, she might not, this time.
I'm not sure if the Diadora-Pasta Zara riders will be there for the Road Race - current RR Champion Mara Abbott had a huge crash out training, and was found lost by the side of the road by a friend. And Shelley Olds was in hospital after the same Nature Valley crash Armstong was in - here's hoping they've both healed well and are all ok.
5. French time trial - can anyone beat Jeannie Longo?
Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli is an absolute legend. She's won pretty much everything, and last year, at age 51, she won her 57th national title, when she won the ITT. Her palmares are ridiculously good - 5 Road Race and 4 TT world champs' jerseys, a gold and a silver at the Olympic RR, a silver and a bronze in the TT (that last bronze in 2000, when she was 41!), 4 World Champs golds on the track - but can she STILL keep winning? And is it good for French cycling if she does?
In terms of the Road Race, the ones I'll be watching out for are Christel Ferrier-Bruneau, who rides cyclocross in the winter and road, for Gauss, in the summer. She's having a great year! But if young superstar Pauline Ferrand-Prévot is riding... this 19 year-old was has junior two world titles in cross country MTB, and is current Junior World Champion on the road... She's been junior national champ in road and MTB, and Cadette national champ on the road & MTB twice before that, is she ready for her first senior jersey? She might be focusing on MTB this weekend, but look out, if she's riding...
So those are the Champs I'll be looking out for, with the German road race coming in 6th... which ones will you be watching? What have I missed from my assessments? And most of all, can we find tv? You know what to do....! The comments are waiting for you!