WorldTour Wrap: the secret nationals and planning Ian Stannard's summer - Road Cycling UK

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WorldTour Wrap: the secret nationals and planning Ian Stannard’s summer

What better way to promote a bike race than by keeping it from public consumption?


The WorldTour took a break this week to make way for the various national road cycling championships going on throughout most of the cycling world.

This is a week where team allegiances go (sort of) out the window, with most of the big names finding themselves without their most important domestiques – drawn as they are from the international rosters of their respective WorldTour teams. This makes things a lot more chaotic, as some riders race with ten teammates, while others have two.

“What do you mean nobody was able to watch at home?” (pic – Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com)

Riders with big ambitions at the Tour de France or Giro Rosa may not even show for nationals, while lower-tier teams will go all out to try and land a massive coup.

Wacky Races on the Isle of Man

As riders around the world competed to wear the assorted stripes, hoops, crests, spangly stars and heraldic flora and fauna of their respective country, the UK was not to be left out

A mixed bag of riders for the British nationals (pic – Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

This year’s nationals were contested on the Isle of Man, home to an unexplainably high proportion of the UK’s best cyclists and a true grassroots hotbed of the sport. Not bad for an island ‘sometimes ridiculed as 60,000 alcoholics clinging to a rock in the Irish sea’.

One of the most charming things about nationals is how the whole race has something of the local club road race about it.

British Cycling, the organisation charged with promoting cycling that is British, pulled the genius PR move of NOT LETTING ANYBODY WATCH THE RACE. Because what most bike races are missing these days is a really tangible sense of mystery.

Those who follow women’s cycling will be used to this – the Liege-Bastogne-Liege organisers pulled the same promotional masterstroke of keeping the race a secret to enhance its appeal.

A giant trophy, but live TV (pic – Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com)

“Oh for the days of the early Tours de France,” British Cycling seemed to say, “when men could climb onto trains unseen and skip huge tranches of the route, while others would go missing for literally days, before reappearing on the route, after having taken a wrong turn somewhere and added a hundred kilometres to their route.

“The same days when journalists would simply make up what happened in the race, certain in their knowledge that nobody could refute their tall tales.”

At least the roadside was packed… (pic – Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

And in that spirit, here is what happened in the British National Road Race Championships.

Lizzie Deignan won the women’s race, after Elinor Barker, who had attacked earlier in the day solo, was snatched by a dragon that swooped down on the race with just two kilometres to go.

Deignan used this opportunity to throw a banana skin over her head, Mario Kart-style, before powering off the front to win alone.

Elinor Barker, pre-dragon abduction (pic – Alex Whitehead-SWpix.com)

In the men’s race, a swarm of bumblebees created havoc in the first kilometres of the race, prompting Jon Dibben, Alex Dowsett, Chris Lawless and Graham Briggs to form a breakaway, the quartet all being highly allergic to bee stings.

Adam Blythe pulled over in a small town along the route to use the local blacksmith’s forge to fix his bike, only to realise that his bike is made of carbon fibre, not steel, and that this is 2017 and there aren’t blacksmiths anymore – not even on the Isle of Man.

Bike Channel Canyon’s Dexter Gardias got so far up the road at one stage that he stopped in a local cafe for an espresso,. Once there however, he quickly fell in love with the woman serving behind the counter, immediately renouncing bike racing as a career in favour of marrying her and making a life together.

In the end though, the race was won by Steve Cummings who raced clear in trademark fashion with around 7km to go – although some of the other riders complained about his use of a giant slingshot to propel himself towards the finish line, Wile E. Coyote-style.

It was an incredible week for Cummings, as he’d already won the national TT title on Thursday, while Claire Rose took the women’s title.

These races were also not televised, but given that ‘watching a cycling time trial on television’ is a worthy replacement for ‘watching paint dry’ as the go-to example of boringness in the popular lexicon, no one seemed to mind.

I wish Luke were here

The other tricky thing about covering an untelevised race, is it’s sometimes tricky to keep track of exactly who is in the race. As the British Cycling live text proved.

Go, go, Gogl! Oh no, Yogi!

With no actual WorldTour racing to talk about, we were forced to spend most of the week pretending to care whether or not Michal Gogl made it into the Trek-Segafredo squad for the Tour de France. Yes, this was the incredibly thrilling team announcement week.

The most talked-about roster announcement was doubtless Team Sky’s, however. The news that Wout Poels, Peter Kennaugh and Ian Stannard missed out raised varying levels of surprise.

Poels has been far from his best all year and was an expected omission. Some thought Kennaugh deserved a run in the team after his barnstorming stage win in the Criterium du Dauphiné, while Ian Stannard has been a lieutenant for Chris Froome in all three of his Tour wins so far and considered by many as a ‘first on the team sheet’ selection.

Unfortunately, big ‘Yogi’, the classics specialist and all round hard-as-nails dude, didn’t make the cut, meaning he suddenly has a big three week gap in his calendar.

Ian Stannard ponders his Tour-less summer (pic – Sirotti)

Here are some things we think Ian Stannard might be doing instead of racing the Tour de France:

Chewing rocks

Nothing soothes the disappointment like grinding a few pebbles with your molars.

Riding his bike behind jet engines taking off at Manchester Airport

Just ‘cos he likes headwinds.

Throwing darts at a photo of Dave Brailsford

While simultaneously weeping and saying ‘I’m sorry Lord Dave, I’m so, so sorry’.

Phoning Luke Rowe every day of the Tour ‘just for a chat’

‘Hi mate, how’s it going?’

‘Hi Ian. I’m quite tired actually, today was a tough one.’

‘I know. On the TV they said there were 20mph crosswinds?’

‘Yeah, it was brutal.’

‘You lucky bastard.’ *begins sobbing*

‘No, wait, honestly Ian, it wasn’t that bad. Nothing like E3 Harelbeke. Remember when it was so bad G got blown into that ditch.’

*sniffs* ‘Yeah, that was good.’

‘You liked that, didn’t you mate?’

‘Yeah.’ *chuckles*

‘Ok mate, I’ve got to go down to dinner, now.’

‘Ok. Call you tomorrow!’

Breaking planks of wood with his head

HEEEEE-YA!

Going for a nice relaxing spa day with Wout Poels

Even hardmen like a little softness now and again.

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