Peter Kennaugh (Team Sky) and Laura Trott (Wiggle Honda) are Britain’s new elite road race champions.
The Olympic track gold medalists won their respective events by finishing ahead of team-mates, with Kennaugh seeing off the challenge of Ben Swift in a two-up sprint, and Trott and Dani King riding either side of defending champion, Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolman), to complete a one-two for their Wiggle-Honda team in the women’s event.
Both races were held in Abergavenny, Wales, in front of sizable crowds. The quality of the podiums in both races, with Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) third in the elite men’s race, and Armitstead a disappointed bronze medalist in the women’s event, speaks volumes for the health of British cycle sport.
Elite men’s race
Team Sky took an early hold on the men’s race, with four riders in a seven-strong leading group, but surprisingly the team member most fancied for the title, Geraint Thomas, missed the move.
His young compatriot, Scott Davies (Madison Genesis), the 18-year-old sensation crowned under-23 time trial champion just days earlier, had joined the break, but soon found the pace too hot and dropped back to the bunch.
The other members of Team Sky’s leading quartet, Luke Rowe and Josh Edmondson, worked effectively with Kennaugh and Swift in a bid to neutralise the breakaway’s greatest threat to their ambitions: the Yates twins (Orica-GreenEDGE).
Adam Yates was first to succumb to the effect of their relentless attacking, but Simon clung on and even rode clear with Kennaugh and Swift. He was the next to crumble beneath the Team Sky assault.
With two laps remaining of a 7.2km finishing circuit, the two Sky team-mates had a comfortable lead of around 30 seconds.
Kennaugh was the instigator of a series of attacks, putting the hurt on his team-mate each time the road went up. But Swift, a vastly improved climber this season, and a podium finisher at Milan-San Remo, refused to buckle and remained stubbornly on Kennaugh’s wheel on each occasion.
As the Team Sky car pulled alongside the pair on the final lap, many feared that team orders might be issued, but another attack from Kennaugh just moments later revealed that the team-mates had been given licence to race each other.
Swift led the duo beneath the flamme rouge, and as they entered the town centre, the fast-finishing Yorkshireman would perhaps have been favoured for victory by many.
But Kennaugh refused to quit, and dived through the narrowest of gaps between Swift and the crowd barriers to snatch victory on the line.
The Manxman awaited his presentation to the crowd with an intense expression, but was all smiles on the podium as he received the coveted jersey.
He said: “It’s hard to race against such a good mate and play those tactics of sitting on for almost a whole lap.”
The Manxman added that he had learned the lesson of his defeat to Kristian House in the 2009 national championships when he said he had attacked too early.
“I stayed positive and took my best shot,” he said. “I’ve done so many sprint training sessions with Swifty and he just leaves me, but today was my day obviously.”
Kennaugh, who won an Olympic gold medal riding with Great Britain’s men’s team pursuit squad at the 2012 London Games, said winning the British road race championship compared to his greatest success on the track.
“I’ve got so many fantastic memories of the nationals and cycling – Alpe d’Huez at the Tour de France last year and the Champs Elysees – but this has got to be one of the best.”
Ed Laverick claimed the under-23 mens’ title in further success for the Rapha Condor JLT team, recent winners of the Tour de Korea.
Elite women’s race
With a lap remaining of the elite women’s race, defending champion Lizzie Armitstead gambled and launched a strong attack that momentarily stunned her rivals.
An elite chasing group, including Emma Pooley (VC Norwich), Trott and King took a while to organise its pursuit, with Pooley initially driving off the front of a quartet that also contained Sharon Laws (United Healthcare).
Up ahead, Armitstead dug deep to protect a lead that quickly grew to 18 seconds on the climb out of the town centre. Maintaining a rock solid position in the saddle, the defending champion entered time trial mode in a bid to snatch a solo victory.
Pooley remained at the head of the chasing group, relentlessly pursuing Armitstead while King gritted her teeth to hold a place on her wheel. An occasional glance of her shoulder to check on the position of team-mate Trott gave a subtle indication of Wiggle-Honda’s tactics.
Moments later, it was King who launched a counter attack, riding clear at the crest of a steep climb. King soon caught Armitstead, with Pooley unwittingly dragging Trott to the wheels of the leading pair.
With a quartet formed from the most decorated riders in British women’s cycling, anxious glances were exchanged as each decided upon a tactical approach. Their collective hesitation allowed Laws to regain contact.
King and Pooley resumed their aggresive approach, with the former world time trial champion, who had pulled on the stripes of national TT champion on Thursday, leading the quintet into the park.
King claimed the lead spot as they passed beneath the flamme rouge with a recovered Armitstead suddenly back in contention. All five members of the group began to sprint, with the Boels-Dolman rider seemingly in control.
But the defending champion soon found herself the subject of the attentions of Trott and King, who rode either side of her on the run to the line, passing her with just metres remaining.
Trott said: “I’m so, so happy. Training recently hasn’t been going that well. Morale’s been through the floor and after the time trial I was really, really disappointed.
“She [Armitstead] went and our coach said if she gets a big enough gap on the downhill she’ll go. But that gap came down and down and I was sitting on the whole time. Then it was do or die.
“I crossed the line first and I seriously could not believe it. I’m so happy. Thanks to Dani who gave me the perfect lead out.”
Pictures used with kind permission of Huw Evans Picture Agency.
Elite men – result
1) Peter Kennaugh – Team Sky – 4.25.01
2) Ben Swift – Team Sky – ST
3) Simon Yates – Orica-GreenEDGE +1.09
4) Luke Rowe – Team Sky +1.38
5) Josh Edmondson – Team Sky – 4.01
6) Adam Yates – Orica-GreenEDGE – 4.39
7) Rob Partridge – Velosure-Giordana – 5.43
8) Geraint Thomas – Team Sky – ST
9) Tom Stewart – Madison Genesis
10) James McLaughlin – Guidon Chalettois
Elite women – result
1) Laura Trott – Wiggle-Honda – 2.44.56
2) Dani King – Wiggle-Honda – ST
3) Elizabeth Armitstead – Boels-Dolman
4) Emma Pooley – VC Norwich +4″
5) Sharon Laws – United Healthcare +6″
6) Katie Archibald – Pearl Izumi-Sports Tours International +1.12
7) Dame Sarah Storey – Pearl Izumi-Sports Tours International +1.51
8) Elinor Barker – Wiggle-Honda +1.53
9) Hannah Barnes – United Healthcare +5.36
10) Nicola Juniper – Team Echelon-Rotor +5.37