British champion Peter Kennaugh (Team Sky) says he had to dig deep to defend his blue, white and red striped jersey after sealing a second consecutive national title on a tough course in Lincoln.
Kennaugh out-fought fellow Manxman and 2013 champion Mark Cavendish at the end of the 196.7km race, proving strongest on the cobbled Michaelgate climb to forge clear in the final moments.
Kennaugh admitted he was unsure whether he was going to win until rounding the final bend without the Manx Missile on his wheel – and the 26-year-old relishing another year in the national champion’s jersey.
“From 3km in when we split it in the crosswinds, we were constantly on the pedals,” he told the Team Sky website. “On the climb we were doing two-minute efforts at full gas and it eventually caught up with us.
“My legs were starting to cramp on the last lap and fill with lactate, but I had to give it everything at the line.
“I didn’t think I’d won it until the last right-hand bend when I saw Cav wasn’t on my wheel. Up until then he’d been incredibly strong and hats off to him, I’m sure he’ll get this jersey again another year.
“Winning the race last year meant everything to me and it’s been a great 12 months. I couldn’t believe how quickly it came around again and I’m over the moon to be staying in the white jersey, with my white bike and white accessories.
“All that means a lot to me, and having the added pressure of wearing it in the pro peloton gives me that extra motivation to perform.”
Kennaugh’s first 12 months in the jersey included overall victory at the Tour of Austria and a stage win at the Criterium du Dauphine.
Up against a strong field in Lincoln, though, it took a big performance to defend the jersey as the race was split up almost from the off.
Adam and Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) were the biggest early casualties, losing out in the split, before Kennaugh, Cavendish, Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard (Team Sky), Scott Thwaites (Bora-Argon 18) and Adam Blythe (Orica-GreenEDGE) earned a gap on the first lap of the finishing circuit.
The Bury-born Yates twins chased behind in a group also containing former champion Kristian House (Condor-JLT) but Adam was dropped again as the front group gained momentum.
An attack from Stannard on the second Michaelgate ascent split the leaders, with Kennaugh the only rider able to find the 2012 champion’s wheel, and the duo led for much of the rest of the race.
Further back, Cavendish and Rowe accelerated with two laps to go to join Rowe’s two Sky team-mates on the front on the penultimate climb.
The attacks were quick to start on the final lap, with Stannard trying his luck first before Cavendish bridged across and then attacked with only Kennaugh on his wheel.
Kennaugh was strongest on Michaelgate for the final time and went on to claim victory but Cavendish held on for second, with Stannard out-sprinting Rowe for third.
And, having finished second, Cavendish believes the race has served as a valuable form finder for the Tour de France.
“I’m super happy with my performance today,” he said. “I felt really strong throughout the whole race. I feel I’m in good form now going into the Tour de France. I’m looking forward to it.”
Earlier, Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) – in her first race since her horror crash moments after winning stage one of the Women’s Tour – won back her women’s national title.
Armitstead forged on solo on the penultimate ascent of Michaelgate and had opened up an unassailable lead by the time she crested the climb.
Showing little sign of any damage from her Women’s Tour crash, the Yorkshirewoman had been in a strong selection of nine riders who had gone clear earlier in the race but a lack of cohesion saw them reeled back in on that penultimate lap.
When the race hit Michaelgate again, however, Armitstead attacked again with defending champion Laura Trott (Matrix Fitness) desperately holding her wheel.
But the track superstar couldn’t hold on, though, eventually being beaten into third by Alice Barnes (Betch NL Superior Brentjens), with Molly Weaver (Liv-Plantur) in fourth and narrowly missing out on a spot on the podium.
British National Road Race – men’s result
1) Peter Kennaugh – Team Sky – 4.27.33hrs
2) Mark Cavendish – Etixx-QuickStep +5”
3) Ian Stannard – Team Sky +39”
4) Luke Rowe – Team Sky – ST
5) Scott Thwaites – Bora-Argon 18 +3.00
6) Adam Blythe – Orica-GreenEDGE +3.30
7) Owain Doull – Team WIGGINS +6.29
8) Yanto Barker – One Pro Cycling +8.04
9) Steven Lampier – Raleigh-GAC +8.05
10) Jon Mould – One Pro Cycling +8.07
British National Road Race – women’s result
1) Lizzie Armitstead – Boels-Dolmans – 2.51.14hrs
2) Alice Barnes – Betch NL Superiror Brentjens +1.52
3) Laura Trott – Matrix-Fitness – ST
4) Molly Weaver – Liv-Plantur
5) Nikki Harris – Telenet-Fidea +2.01
6) Katie Archibald – Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International +2.03
7) Hannah Barnes – UnitedHealthCare +2.05
8) Lucy Coldwell – unattached +2.09
9) Sharon Laws – Bigla Pro Cycling +2.12
10) Hayley Simmonds – Team Velosport +2.15