It promises to be one of the best and most open National Championship road races for years.
We get the verdict on some of the favourites from inside the peloton. Russell Downing, who won the last time the title race was held at Ryedale in 2005, assesses the best of the talent returning from overseas, while last year?s runner-up Dan Lloyd gives his verdict on the best domestic riders.
This article originally appeared in Cycling Weekly.
Team 100% ME
Best Nationals: 71st in 2006
Downing says: ?He?s a local guy to me back home in Yorkshire, so this is a local race for him too. He won a big race in Italy a couple of weeks ago and I know how hard it is to win races in Italy. The Academy lads will be coming back and riding as a team, which will make it very interesting. They missed it last year because the Nationals were rescheduled because of the floods and they were doing something else. They?re going to be a couple of years older and stronger than last time they rode it so they?ll be a factor.?
An Post-M.Donnelly-Grant Thornton-Sean Kelly
Best Nationals: Runner-up in 2007
Downing says: ?He?s come on so much in the last couple of years. His climbing is absolutely brilliant. He?s done all those races out in Asia where he?s developed his climbing. He?s had a heavy-duty programme and he did the Ras then the Tour of Belgium back-to-back so he?ll be resting up a little so he?s ready. The course isn?t ideal for him because it hasn?t got a long ?rhythm? climb where he can wind it up. But it?s a long race and if you?ve got a bit of punch like he has, you can use it late in race because even easy climbs are hard then.?
Best Nationals: 22nd in 2006
Downing says: ?Ian?s got so much power. I was out in Majorca earlier in the year with him, doing a bit of training, and I was well impressed. He?s finished some massive races, the Tour of Flanders, Ghent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix, in his first year. This kind of hard, fast, relentless racing is going to suit him. He could be a very handy rider to get in a break with because he?s got such a big engine.?
Best Nationals: Champion in 2003, 2004
Downing says: ?This is exactly Hammond?s sort of course. It?s rolling, dead roads Rolling circuits. It?s a totally different style of racing to what those guys are used to, though. It?s attack, attack, attack from the start and you can only go with so many moves. He?s got Cavendish in there too so they have cards to play but if Roger gets in a move he?s hard to beat.?
Best Nationals: Champion in 2007
Downing says: ?He?ll want to defend his jersey, won?t he. He?s come out of the Giro and he?ll be a week away from the Tour de France so he?s going to be good. Last year he was well impressive. I got across to a move with him and he was flying. I am better now than I was then, though. With Millar, he can climb, he can ride hard on the flat and he?s got a good finish.?
Best Nationals: 15th in 2005
Downing says: ?He?s going to want to win it. There?s not many riders in the world as quick as him in the sprint so if it comes down to a sprint from a little group and he?s there, he?s going to be very difficult to beat. It?s just a matter of how hard High Road have had to work through the race. If you?re in a break and Cavendish is there, no one is going to want to ride with him so tactically it makes it very hard for him.?
Best Nationals: 1st in 2005
Lloyd says: ?Of all the domestic riders he?s far and away the most dangerous. He?s the best equipped to compete with the riders coming back from overseas. He?s a born winner, he?s won on this circuit before. I know him quite well because I lived with him in France on my first year out there. Really he should be riding at the next level above this because he?s really difficult to handle. He?s got good stamina, good punch and he?s difficult to contain. Not only that but he uses his head well.?
Best Nationals: 24th in 2006
Lloyd says: ?Dean is a gifted rider, it?s just that his brother has been better than him so far this year. He?s got a strong team with him and that can make a difference in the national championships where most of the guys returning home are alone or with one other guy. They can play the numbers game and certainly Dean is a dangerous rider if he is still there at the end.?
Best Nationals: N/A
Lloyd says: ?I was really, really impressed with him at the Ras. Actually I was impressed with him at the Tour of Britain because at the end of a seven-day race he was up there at the front when you perhaps wouldn?t have expected him to be. At the Ras he had two super days back-to-back. Okay, so he paid for it on the penultimate day but it was still impressive. He?s strong, recovers well and is definitely someone to watch for. He?s Plowman Craven?s best hope. Evan [Oliphant] has the capability but it?s a question of whether his head is screwed on.?
Best Nationals: 4th in 2005
Lloyd says: ?Chris should be strong. He went into the Ras fresh and then rode really hard all week. He did an amazing amount of work. He had that enforced break [when he broke his collarbone in a crash in training] and the Nationals may come at just the right time for him.?
Best Nationals: 2nd in 2001
Lloyd says: ?We haven?t seen the best of Rob on the road lately because he?s been so focused on the track ? until he won the Beaumont Trophy. I am not sure how high on his list of priorities the Nationals are but he?s got the engine. Quite often at the Nationals you find there are only a few of the domestic guys left at the finish but Rob could be one of them. His team-mate Tom Southam is another to watch but he?s always so keen to get in the early break. He?s been second in the Nationals before so could get a result again.?
Best Nationals: 1st in 1993
Lloyd says: ?Malcolm has been up there in the Premiers but since his comeback he?s not had the same impact at the Nationals. Maybe that?s the extra distance, I don?t know. I?m sure Russell would like him to be up there in the closing stages. He could be a dangerous one to get in a break because he knows how to race.?
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