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Nats Week! TTs Underway; Road Races Coming!

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Martin Toft Madsen, Danish ITT champion
Martin Toft Madsen, Danish ITT champion
Lars Ronbog, Getty

It's raining points, hallelujah! Nats Week is an exciting time, with lots of very nice jerseys handed out, often to very nice riders, men and women. It's a time when people race for pride... but it's also very close to the Tour de France, when certain people are guarding their form. So you get what you get, and you don't throw a fit.

For lists of who's won what, Wikipedia has a nice grid, as do we. Please comment below whenever there's a name to add to the FSA DS scoring. Here's a bit of info on the Big Four Five. The US and antipodean championships already happened for this year.

Belgium: The most obsessed-over national title will be decided in southern Belgium, close to the French border, in Les Lacs de l'Eau d'Heure, which translates into something like the lakes of the water of the hour. The course is described by some as Amstel Gold-like, though with a hope for the Flanders guys hanging around as well, which means nobody you can think of is eliminated from the race before it starts, maybe not even the pure sprinters. Of course, in Belgium sprinting is something you do after climbing the hellingen anyway, so I'm not sure we need to worry about such a rider being unfairly treated here. Apparently Tom Boonen is off his game due to respiratory issues, and anyway this course screams "Van Avermaet" or "Benoot" anyway. So of course the media are focusing on Gilbert.

Italy: I had a little more success locating a coherent website for all info pertaining to the Italian Nats, men, women and children. Maybe because I only had to pick one language for search purposes. This year's championships are in Boario Terme, near Brescia and not terribly far from Milan. Think of this as Giro di Lombardia-East, or roughly similar terrain.

Italian Nats 2016 parcours

So Giorgia Bronzini is maybe in a bit of difficulty here. Too bad, she hasn't eaten her Nats donut yet, which is odd for a 2x World Champion, but then again, when does Italy ever give its title to a sprinter? Elena Cecchini is a 2x defending champ, and Vincenzo Nibali is also a 2x defending winner on the men's side.

Netherlands: Easily located, as the KNWU has a handle on all things Dutch racing, national level. Here's the Elites guide. And they direct you to the event site, which is here, for the rest of the details. The races are in Zeeland, finishing on or near the Brouwersdam, which was part of the opening road stage of the Tour last year. I'm not going to insult you with a profile of the course. It's flat, but plenty tricky in its own very Dutch way.

Spain: With some effort I finally tracked this down. Spanish Nats are almost always climber-friendly, duh, but this year's event is much more wide open than you might expect. Cocentaina is by the Valencia coast, not near any significant mountains, and the parcours looks like this:

Spanish Nats 2016 profile

Probably enough climbing to break up the race, and with Movistar loaded up -- almost surely for Valverde -- a lot of challengers will be at their mercy, of which they have little. But you never know.

Britain: Yes, welcome to the Big Five. Sorry, Germany, Norway, etc., we're holding the line here for now. Anyway, what the UK lacks in clarity of European relationships, it more than makes up for with a nicely coherent and easily located website for its cycling championships. The events are centered in Stockton-on-Tees, in the Northeast Region. The course spends the last 20k spinning around Stockton, and a sprint is expected to decide matters, unless someone else can be bothered. Still, on the men's side, Mark Cavendish vs. Team Sky could get interesting, and Lizzie Armitstead vs. the World might as well.

OK, that's all from me. Feel free to fill in more details in comments, such as winners of events (men and women) and course information that I haven't covered. Thanks!