Newly-crowned British road race champion Connor Swift (Madison-Genesis) admitted his big risk paid off as he soloed to a surprise victory in Stamfordham at the British National Road Championships.
Swift attack from the leading group with 12km still to race on the final lap of the Northumberland circuit, having animated the breakaway on the run-in to Stamfordham.
Alongside WorldTour riders including his cousin Ben Swift (UAE Team Emirates) and Team Sky’s Owain Doull, as well as 2016 national champion Adam Blythe, who rides at ProConti level with Aqua Blue Sport, the Madison-Genesis rider broke clear and stayed away.
Blythe and Doull led the counter-attack, but Swift’s advantage proved too great as he claimed his first victory of the season, and became the first UCI Continental-level rider to pull on the red, white and blue-striped jersey since Kristian House in 2009.
“This jersey is meant to be going to the Tour de France and looking at the names on the trophy is amazing," said Swift.
“I’ve had a bit of bad luck in a few races when I’ve been up there, but Colin (Sturgess) told me that the win would come and when it did it would be big; and this is big.
“I felt so good on last lap and could tell others were struggling. There was nothing to lose, the worst result was top-ten. It was a big risk and it paid off.
“It’s a dream come true to be national champion, there’s such pride having the jersey, and it’s amazing to do it for the team, who were underdogs for the race.”
Swift and the aforementioned riders were part of the initial 17-man breakaway, which – after taking a short while to form – built up a decent advantage in the early stages.
A spirited counter-attack, led by Ian Stannard (Team Sky), in-form Mark Donovan (Team Wiggins) and Tom Stewart (JLT-Condor) looked to peg them back on the final two laps but the gap would not come down.
It meant the likes of 2013 winner Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) in the peloton would not be featuring in the denouement as, over the final climb of the Ryals, it became apparent the winner would be coming from the 17-man group.
Blythe and Ben Swift appeared to be among the favourites, but Connor Swift split the group as he upped the tempo, forcing Doull to chase back to bring it all together again.
Swift dropped the hammer again with 12km remaining and this time was not coming back – his small but steady advantage holding firm despite Doull, Blythe, Fred Wright (100% ME), Robert Scott (Team Wiggins) and Ben Hetherington (Memil CCN Pro Cycling) chasing hard behind.
Swift’s advantage was 22 seconds at the finish line, with Blythe second and Doull third. Scott was crowned under-23 champion after finishing fourth.
Swift is the first rider outside of the WorldTour to win the race since the foundation of Team Sky in 2010.
The Yorkshireman’s victory crowned a day of surprise results, after Welsh teenager Jess Roberts had earlier claimed victory in the women’s race.
Roberts countered a solo attack from Melissa Lowther (Storey Racing) on the run-in back to Stamfordham to open up a small lead – one that was decreasing by the pedal stroke as the finish line approached.
The 19-year-old just about held off the charge from Dani Rowe (WaowDeals) at the front of the peloton, however, while Eleanor Dickinson (Team Breeze) claimed third place.
Roberts is the first teenager to win the race, and the jersey, since fellow Welshwoman Nicole Cooke – who would go on to be crowned national champion ten times.
British National Road Race Championships 2018: results
1) Connor Swift - Madison-Genesis - 4.19.06hrs
2) Adam Blythe - Aqua Blue Sport +22"
3) Owain Doull - Team Sky +25"
4) Robert Scott - Team Wiggins +26"
5) Fred Wright - 100% ME - ST
6) Ben Hetherington - Memil-CCN Pro Cycling +27"
7) Gabriel Cullaigh - Team Wiggins +34"
8) Ben Swift - UAE-Team Emirates +59"
9) Joey Walker - Team Wiggins +1.00
10) Dexter Gardias - Canyon-Eisberg - ST
1) Jessica Roberts - Team Breeze - 2.43.23hrs
2) Dani Rowe - WaowDeals Pro Cycling +1"
3) Eleanor Dickinson - Team Breeze +2"
4) Anna Kay - Storey Racing - ST
5) Megan Barker - Team Breeze
6) Elizabeth Banks - UnitedHealthCare
7) Emily Wadsworth - Team Breeze +3"
8) Henrietta Colborne - Bizkaia Durango-Euskadi - ST
9) Alice Cobb - Team TIBCO-SVB
10) Laura Massey - Trek-Drops