Geraint Thomas has taken the men’s elite national road race, rounding off a dominant all-round performance from Team Sky. The Welshman outsprinted teammate Peter Kennaugh to claim the win in Barley.
The pair were the strongest from a day-long break, which also included fellow Sky rider Ian Stannard, Jeremy Hunt (Cervelo Test Team) and Simon Richardson (Sigma Sport-Specialized).
“I never thought the 1-2-3 would happen – the way the race went as well, a strange race. We just rode it really well, paced it nicely,” said 24-year-old Thomas.
The onus was on Team Sky, with their ProTour reputation and numerical advantage, to take the race to their rivals. They wasted no time either, forging the race’s key break on the first of the fifteen laps around the Pendle town of Barley.
Ian Stannard jumped away with Hunt and Richardson, before being joined by Thomas and Kennaugh shortly afterwards. The leading five thern fought to establish an initial lead of a minute.
With the strongest team in the ascendancy, there were several brave, but ultimately ill-fated attempts to peg back the five breakaways.
A chasing group involving David Millar (Garmin-Transitions), and Raleigh pair Dan Shand and Dan Fleeman got to within two minutes before dropping back again; Millar would later withdraw, with next week’s Tour de France in mind.
In front, Richardson and Hunt were virtually passengers as the three Sky riders tapped out a fast and steady pace, their advantage ever growing as the bunch fragmented or – in many cases – abandoned behind.
With three laps to go, the first cracks showed. Richardson was first to wilt and fall off the pace and Cervelo man Hunt soon followed suit, leaving the three Sky men to fight it out.
More suited to the cobbles of the Northern Classics than a course with 4,500 metres of vertical ascent, a suffering Ian Stannard yo-yoed on and off the pace in front before being dropped by his companions just inside the last lap.
There was no love lost between the two teammates as they fought for the title. Kennaugh surged several times in the closing miles, but Thomas was equal to his attacks.
The two hit the downhill finish still together, and Thomas proved stronger in the sprint to the line, claiming his first national champion’s jersey.
The Welshman will be wearing it proudly at the Tour de France as one of three Britons in the Sky line-up. It’s the first time the jersey will be at the race since 1992, when Motorola rider Sean Yates wore it.
Immediately after the finish, Thomas gave credit to second-placed Kennaugh. “I take my hat off to him; I knew I just had to follow him. I didn’t roll through a bit, but that’s bike racing,” he said.
Stannard took third to complete the Sky 1-2-3 in their debut nationals. The few remaining riders came home in ones and twos.
The gruelling course was the chief reason for the low finish rate, alongside the heat and Sky domination. But surely a British national road race has never seen such decimation – ultimately, just 11 riders finished the race on the same lap as Thomas.
British National Championship Road Race
1. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) 180 kilometres in 5-07-08
2. Peter Kennaugh (Team Sky) at same time
3. Ian Stannard (Team Sky) at 2-20
4. Jeremy Hunt (Cervelo Test Team) at 7-59
5. Simon Richardson (Sigma Sport-Specialized) at 8-23
6. David Clarke (Pendragon-Le Col-Colnago) at 10-41
7. Dan Fleeman (Team Raleigh) at 10-43
8. Andy Fenn (100% ME) at 13-56
9. Rob Partridge (Endura) at 17-24
10. Paul Esposti (BCV) at 17-25
11. Chris Froome (Team Sky) 17-54
1 lap down
12. Rhys Lloyd (Pendragon-Le Col-Colnago)
13. Kristian House (Rapha-Condor-Sharp)
14. Ross Creber (Endura)
15. Ben Greenwood (Rapha-Condor-Sharp)
16. Richard Cartland (Corley Cycles)
17. Doug Dewey (Pendragon-Le Col-Colnago)
18. Tomas Swift-Metcalfe (Palmeiras Resort)
19. Steve Lampier (Pendragon-Le Col-Colnago)
20. Tim Kennaugh (100% ME)
Thomas, Kennaugh and Stannard hit the last lap
Podium (l-r): Peter Kennaugh (second), Geraint Thomas (winner); Ian Stannard (third)
Pooley beats Cooke for National Championship win