Second, third, second. That’s Peter Kennaugh’s sequence from the last three years at the National championships.
On different courses, the Team Sky talent has been a challenger. After those near misses, he’ll want to clinch the jersey more than ever on Sunday in Northumbria – and he seems better equipped than ever to do it too.
The narrow defeat in Pendle last year left the youngster bitterly disappointed. He made it into the race-long early break and got away with Geraint Thomas in the finale, only to be pipped in the sprint.
“I didn’t have the best race, I lost my head a little. I tried to shake him off on the final climb. But now I’m so much more confident, I feel I can take riders in the sprint – hopefully,” he told Cycling Weekly on Monday.
The national championships always get Kennaugh motivated. “I love it. Even when I was an U14 racing round the circuits, there was something about the jersey. I always seem up for it.”
He accepts that it’ll be strange racing his Sky teammates. “You don’t want to work over the other guys. Race properly, race with respect, but this is the jersey everyone wants.”
A nagging cold could slow Kennaugh down, but he’ll hope to be over that come the race.
In form man
22 year old Kennaugh comes into the race off the back of the best result of his nascent career at the Route du Sud last Sunday.
In the Pyrenean stage race, he climbed the likes of the Aspin, Tourmalet and Port de Bales with the best on the way to third place overall.
“It means a lot, it’s something I’ve been trying to work towards,” Kennaugh said. “There were times that I thought ‘am I good enough to be in the front group on these kinds of climbs?’ I know it’s not the Tour or the Dauphiné, but a lot of big names were here.”
Kennaugh called the Giro d’Italia a “big factor” in his form. “I spent three weeks on my bike, I thought I wouldn’t want to see the bike again for a while. But I’m going a lot better than I thought I would, getting a buzz from riding and I hope I can carry it through to the Nationals,” he says.
Changed by the Giro
The Giro had a profound effect on Kennaugh, especially the two toughest legs. “The Zoncolan and Gardeccia stages, they changed me as a person and as a bike rider,” he said.
“They’re not normal climbs. To experience that… you can’t do those things in training, you can’t get that pain and suffering tolerance anywhere else. It just gives you that little bit extra for races.”
He finished the race in 87th place after riding especially strongly in the opening week. ”I loved the whole experience. The strade bianche stage was my favourite bit, there’s something different about it,” he said.
All in all, Kennaugh feels much more at home as a professional this year compared to his maiden season.
“I can’t put into words how different it feels to 2010. It was such a strange year, it didn’t go so smoothly. I had difficulties in my personal life, I feel I’ve got a grip on my training too: my approach is a lot more professional.”