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National Championships Preview

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A quick primer on the peloton getting patriotic with some intrastate conflict

2011 Paris - Roubaix Cycle Race Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

The best racing occurring in the middle doldrums of the cycling season is just about upon us, and I’m not talking about the Tour. It’s that time of the year when the FSA-DS owners of Ignatas Konovalovas and Gert Joeaar can finally celebrate. I’m of course talking about Nats.

As a cycling fan, one of the most frustrating things for me is the inability to find a good central website that has information on all of these races. So, for once in my brief time writing here on PdC, I’m actually going to post something that is informative and not just a barrage of dad jokes, bad puns, and Betancur quips. So let’s get to it and preview some of the national championship courses this year. We’ll be taking a quick look at Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and Spain. And if you’re just interested in a summary of the schedule of most of the bigger nat races and links to their sites, scroll down to the bottom.

BELGIUM

Schedule:

Men’s and Women’s Elite Time Trial - Thursday, June 21, 2018 in Anzegem

Women’s start - 1:50 p.m. CEST (7:50 a.m. EDT)

Men’s start - 3:00 p.m. CEST (9:00 a.m. EDT)

Men’s and Women’s Elite Road Race - Sunday, June 24, 2018 in Binche

Women’s start - 7:45 a.m CEST (1:45 a.m. EDT)

Men’s start - 11:15 a.m CEST (5:15 a.m. EDT)

Time Trial:

Men’s TT course is 43.2 km (3 loops) while the women’s TT course is 28.8 km (2 loops)

Map:

Start list:

It looks to be a competition between defending champion Yves Lampaert and Victor Campenaerts, but you never know when there may be a surprise, like when Jurgen Van den Broeck won in 2015.

Road Race:

Map:

Map of 17.2 km circuit

The women will do the 17.2 kilometer circuit 6 times for 103.2 kilometers while the men will do it 13 times for 223.6 kilometers.

Profile:

Profile of 17.2 km circuit

So, basically, it’s a flat course. It’s Belgium, so there are some cobbles, including at the start/finish line:

The only real difficulty in the race will be a .5 kilometer climb, which averages 4.4% on the Rue de la Pepiniere and which comes in the final kilometer of the race:

Most similar race: Binche-Chimay-Binche

The Nats RR course uses the same finish as BCB including the .5 kilometer 4.4% gradient cobbled climb on Rue de la Pepiniere. Last year, Jasper De Buyst won from a small group containing Matteo Trentin and Tom Devriendt. The year before, Arnaud Demare won. The Nats RR, however, has less climbing as a whole.

Which rider it suits: A strong classics rider that can sprint.

I’m not sure where they’ll be able to find a rider with those characteristics in Belgium. I’m sure that Greg Van Avermaet would like to win this race and ensure what jersey he’ll be wearing next year. However, I think we’ll get a surprise winner, a la Preben Van Hecke. Let’s go with Sean De Bie who has been looking strong all year long.

Here’s the link to the current start list, which currently includes just about every single professional Belgian rider.

BRITAIN

Schedule:

Men’s and Women’s Elite Time Trial - Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Northumberland

Women’s start - TBD

Men’s start - TBD

Men’s and Women’s Elite Road Race - Sunday, July 1, 2018 in Stamfordham

Women’s start - TBD

Men’s start - TBD

Time Trial:

The Men’s TT is 39.7 km and the Women’s TT is 28.6 km. It’s a non-technical course with few turns and while not a course for climbers, it does have some undulations on narrow country roads.

Map:

Profile of out leg and one loop:

No start list has been released yet, but I wouldn’t look past Alex Dowsett taking his 6th jersey.

Road Race:

The race will be 185.6 km for the men and 106.2 km for the women. The course is overall gently undulating on narrow country roads, with the only real difficulty being the Ryal climb, which will likely decide the women’s race as it comes around 10 km before the finish, but which comes much too long before the finish to make a difference in the men’s race.

Large loop profile (laps 2, 3, 4, and 5 for men, 3 laps for women):

Small loop profile (laps 1 and 6 for men):

Ryal climb:

Most similar race: Pick any stage from last year’s sprinter friendly Tour of Britain.

Which rider it suits: A sprinter who can get over some mellow climbs.

If Mark Cavendish is in shape and riding, he has a good shot at taking his second jersey. If not, take your pick between Adam Blythe and Ben Swift.

FRANCE

Schedule:

Men’s and Women’s Elite Time Trial - Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Mantes la Jolie

Women’s start - 1:16 p.m. CEST (7:16 a.m. EDT)

Men’s start - after the women.

Women’s Elite Road Race - Saturday, June 30, 2018 at 1:00 p.m. CEST (7:00 a.m. EDT)

Men’s Elite Road Race - Sunday, July 1, 2018 at 8:45 a.m. CEST (2:45 a.m. EDT)

Time Trial:

The Women’s TT is 28.7 km and the Men’s TT is 45.4 km.

Men’s TT map and profile:

Women’s TT map and profile:

The course is hilly enough that we could get a Pinot-esque surprise. Maybe Jerome Coppel will come out of retirement and take the victory.

Road Race:

The Women’s Road Race is 4 laps of 21. 3km circuit after an 18.7 km start, for a total of 103.9 km. The Men’s Road Race is 11 laps of 21.3 km after an 18.7 km start for a total of 253 kilometers, probably earning the title of longest nats course.

Road Race Circuit Map:

The climb is 4 kilometers at a 3% avg gradient, but includes a short uphill section, a descent, a longer 1 kilometerish steeper section and then a false flat to the top.

If you are interested in what the course looks like, the French cycling federation has a lot of useful information online, including a video ride through of the complete circuit.

Most similar race: pick a French SSR that has some climbs but nothing too serious. Let’s say Paris-Camembert, where Lilian Calmejane won this year. There’s also a UCI 1.2 race, Paris - Mantes-en-Yvelines that finishes in Mantes-la-Jolie, but your guess is as good as mine as to what Gianni Marchand winning that race means about the course. At the 2014 Paris-Nice, which Betancur won, there was a stage that went around a circuit in Mantes-la-Jolie, suggesting that the area has some good all-you-can-eat buffets. Nacer Bouhanni won that stage.

Which rider it suits: A rider that can survive a lot of kilometers, get over small climbs, and with a fast sprint.

That hypothetical rider sounds an awful lot like a previous Milano-Sanremo winner (with assisted climbing of course). At the same time, Arthur Vichot has looked really good lately after recovering from an injury last season. Perhaps he can beat Demare to be the first to get three jerseys.

GERMANY

Schedule:

Men’s and Women’s Elite Time Trial - Friday, June 29, 2018

Women’s start - 6:30 p.m. CEST (12:30 p.m. EDT)

Men’s start - 4:30 p.m. CEST (10:30 a.m. EDT)

Women’s Elite Road Race - Saturday, June 30, 2018, 4:00 p.m. CEST (10:00 a.m. EDT)

Men’s Elite Road Race - Sunday, July 1, 2018, 11:00 a.m. CEST (5:00 a.m. EDT)

Time Trial:

The TT course is basically the same as the road race course (see below), but in a counter-clockwise direction, with an out-and-back section thrown in to make the circuit 15 kilometers. German efficiency at it’s finest. The women will do 2 laps, for 30 kilometers, while the men will do 3 laps for 45 kilometers.

Road Race:

The Men’s Road Race does the 12 kilometer circuit around Einhausen 19 times for 228 kilometers. The women do the same circuit 11 times for 132 kilometers. So, it’s basically a pan flat crit.

RR map:

We can probably just hand the championship jerseys over to Marcel Kittel and Tony Martin right now.

Most similar race: People’s Choice Classic Crit.

Which rider does it favor: See above.

ITALY

Schedule:

Men’s and Women’s Elite Time Trial - ???

Women’s Elite Road Race - Sunday, June 24, 2018

Men’s Elite Road Race - Saturday, June 30, 2018 at 10:30 a.m. CEST (4:30 a.m. EDT)

Time Trial:

Time trials and Italy go together like Mario Cippolini and modesty, and thus it looks like they may just skip the time trials altogether this year. It’s probably better than crowning Fabio Aru a champion of time trialling anyway.

Road Race:

The men’s road race takes place in the Brescia province of the Lombardy region, but avoids the climbs of Il Lombardia and any of the more mountainous territory to the North. The 233.8 km course is similar to the course that was won by Giacomo Nizzolo in 2016 and ends in the same town- Boario Terme. However, this time the riders will have to deal with the Wall of Cornaleto, which is a 200 meter rise at a 17% gradient which comes about 3 kilometers before the finish.

The startlist includes all of the usual Italian contenders- from the sprinters that can’t make it over a dutch mountain to both Nibalis and current champion, Fabio Aru.

Profile of the Wall of Cornaleto
The Wall of Cornaleto

Women’s road race - 117.9 km from Rivoli to Aglie

Women’s RR map and profile

Most similar race: While the women’s race looks to be very similar to the men’s Giro del Piemonte, the men’s race seems sui generis based on my limited research. At the same time, it has the feel of any number of Autumn Italian races, where a sprinter or climber can win.

Which rider it favors: Let’s go with a Bah-Meh rider. Vincenzo Nibali, Giovanni Visconti, Enrico Gasparatto, Sonny Colbrelli, or Domenico Pozzovivo. That about covers the gambit from strong sprinter to punchy one day rider to pure climber.

NETHERLANDS

Schedule:

Men’s and Women’s Elite Time Trial - Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Women’s start - 12:00 p.m. CEST (6:00 a.m. EDT)

Men’s start - 2:00 p.m. CEST (8:00 a.m. EDT)

Women’s Elite Road Race - Saturday, June 30, 2018 at 12:00 p.m. CEST (6:00 a.m. EDT)

Men’s Elite Road Race - Sunday, July 1, 2018 at 10:15 a.m. CEST (4:15 a.m. EDT)

Time Trial:

The time trial takes place in Bergen op Zoom with the women doing 25.8 km and the men doing 52.3 km.

The women’s start list includes defending champion Annemiek van Vleuten, Ellen van Dijk, Anna van der Breggen, Lucinda Brand, and Chantal Blaak amongst many others.

The men’s start list includes defending champ Jos van Emden, Wilco Kelderman, Dylan van Baarle, and Niki Terpstra, but no Doom.

Road Race:

The road race will start in Nispen and travel to Hoogerheide where the riders will repeat a 11.5 kilometer circuit. The elite men will race 221.6 kilometers, doing 15 laps of the circuit around Hoogerheide. The elite women will race 141.1 kilometers, doing 8 laps of the circuit around Hoogerheide.

Map of circuit around Hoogerheide:

While approximately half of that 11.5 kilometer circuit will be cobbled, don’t get too excited as these are modern cobbles, which shouldn’t cause much difficulty:

Dutch cobbles

And as you probably guessed, the race is pancake flat. (I think whoever coined the term “pancake flat” doesn’t know how to make pancakes and forgets to add the baking powder. Perhaps crepe flat would be more appropriate.)

The race also is near the Zeeland region meaning that wind could always be a factor.

Most similar race: Everyone’s favorite Belgian classic- Scheldeprijs. It’s flat, with mild cobbles, and involves a circuit finish near the Zeeland region.

Which rider it favors: A sprinter. Dylan Groenewegen should get his second championship, but it’ll be interesting to see what Fabio Jakobsen can do.

SPAIN

Schedule:

Men’s and Women’s Elite Time Trial - Friday, June 22, 2018

Women’s start - 12:00 p.m. CEST (6:00 a.m. EDT)

Men’s start - 5:00 p.m. CEST (11:00 a.m. EDT)

Women’s Elite Road Race - Saturday, June 23, 2018 at 4:30 p.m. CEST (10:30 a.m. EDT)

Men’s Elite Road Race - Sunday, June 24, 2018 at 9:00 a.m. CEST (3:00 a.m. EDT)

Time Trial:

The Women‘s TT is 19.5 km while the Men’s TT is 37.5 km. It’s in Spain, so they are anything but flat courses.

TT Profiles:

My guess is that Jonathan Castroviejo retains the jersey with the Izagirres not far behind.

Road Race:

The Women’s Road Race is 116 kilometers and includes over 2,500 meters of climbing. The Men’s Road Race, which is on a different course, is 215 kilometers.

Women’s RR Profile:

Spanish Women’s RR Profile

Men’s RR Profile:

The riders will go over the Alto del Desierto de las Palmas climb, which averages about 5% over 8 kilometers, three times. The climb was used in last year’s Vuelta on stage 5, though it came at the beginning of the stage and in the 2015 Vuelta on stage 10.

Most similar race: Take your pick of Spanish races and stages, but in terms of having multiple shortish climbs and a descent and then flat finish, the Clasica San Sebastian would be an apt analogue.

Which rider it favors: This is Valverde’s race unless he gifts it to a teammate.

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS SCHEDULE:

Thursday, June 21st:

Friday, June 22nd:

Saturday, June 23rd:

Sunday, June 24th:

Wednesday, June 27th:

Thursday, June 28th:

Friday, June 29th:

Saturday, June 30th:

Sunday, July 1st: