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A Whistlestop Tour of National Championships Weekend

Gilbert arrival
Gilbert arrival
Patrick Verhoest

So it’s nats week once again, where the only thing left between us and the Tour is a weekend of riders fighting for jerseys that will make their sponsors weep. I’m taking a quick look around the national championships. This will not be comprehensive, how could it be. It will also be incomplete. If you have knowledge to contribute, throw it in the comments. Especially if that knowledge is about the women’s events which I would be insulting you by trying to predict.

We’ll start off with Belgium, where the fight for the driekleur will be in Gent. It’s a pretty flat course with a few sections of cobbles such as the Lange Munte and the Paddestraat. You ought to know them from Omloop. Belgium will always have a lot of potential winners but a few stand out, especially given the likelihood that the race will end in a sprint. Wout van Aert is the obvious pick before you look at the parcours and he remains the obvious pick afterwards if you consider his sprinting performance in the Dauphiné. Jasper Philipsen also looks like he’s got a shot. In the time-trial it looks like a fight between Van Aert and Victor Campanaerts. Personally I favour the Hour Record holder — I expect him to have targeted this.

Next the Netherlands where the city of Ede plays host. Now I’m going to talk about this and assume it’s flat because I cannot find a profile anywhere and let’s be real — it’s the Dutch national championships so I feel if it weren’t flat someone would have said something. The time-trial will probably be over by the time you read this but for the record, my pick was Jos van Emden. The road race is a little harder to predict with no Van der Poel, Groenewegen, Dumoulin or Kelderman. I will go for Fabio Jakobsen.

France now, in La Haie-Fouassière where much of the route is taken from the early-season Classique Loire-Atlantique. The startlist is a lot higher in quality than that race however with practically every French star except Julian Alaphilippe in attendance. A sprint from a group of around ten seems like a foreseeable result in this one. Rudy Barbier won the Loire classic so I’ll back him for a repeat. The time-trial is such poor-quality that it doesn’t deserve a discussion. Latour to retain.

To have a look at Italy now, what I must first say is that information about this race is the hardest to get out of all of them — it’s like they’re hiding the existence of the races. It took me twenty minutes to find out if they were running an elite men’s time-trial this year. They are, as it happens and if google translate serves well, it’s a tough one with a hard climb towards the end. The trouble is, people seem to be reticent about announcing their candidacy. Less so the road race, also a hilly event with a tough climb towards the end. I’ll pick Diego Ulissi though backing Nibali here is never a bad strategy.

Finally, I feel I’ve gotten far enough into this piece to talk about the Irish races. They’re in (this is not a political statement) Derry so I won’t be attending but it looks like a nice course, a few springboards but nothing too tough. Ryan Mullen is the best time-triallist in the country so he’ll retain his jersey but I think we’ll see a new road race champion in Eddie Dunbar who will be well-prepared by his fight with Valverde last week.

The British championships aren’t as star-studded as before — defending time-trial champion Geraint Thomas gives them a miss, for example. Alex Dowsett should succeed him. Road race champion Connor Swift will be long odds for a repeat performance. I can never pick the British road race — maybe Ian Stannard again.

Next up, the United States who had a lot of trouble with attracting riders in the sense that all the names I’m about to mention are promising talents but none established winners. I’ll go for Brandon McNulty to win the double, because he’s on my Ed’s League team. Neilson Powless will be a challenger for him, as will Gavin Mannion.

Spain’s championships are in Murcia and they’re hilly. Alejandro Valverde will want to win them and will in all likelihood therefore do so in the road race, at least. Jonathan Castroviejo is Spain’s time-triallist by a large margin so he should retain his title.

Again, more than any other piece I've written — what have you to say? Go into depth about your national championships, I'd be interested.