North Yorkshire plays host to this year’s National Road Race Championships on Sunday, and the combination of a challenging parcours and strong fields could produce a fascinating day of racing.
Team Sky are only sending five riders to this year’s Nationals, so a repeat of last year’s dominant one-four finish seems unlikely. Defending champion Bradley Wiggins isn’t here, nor are Mark Cavendish, four-time podium finisher Pete Kennaugh or 2010 winner Geraint Thomas.
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Britain’s domestic teams will smell blood; this is their opportunity to take the fight to Team Sky. All eyes are likely to be on Endura Racing and, in particular, the likes of Jon Tiernan-Locke and Russell Downing. Sky’s tactics at this race have been all about numbers, something which Endura have replicated throughout 2012 already. With eight riders on the startlist, they should be able to form race plans aplenty.
Given the recent history between the AA Drink-leontine.nl team (formerly Garmin-Cervelo) and Nicole Cooke – not to mention the looming Olympic road race selection – the women’s event promises to be fascinating. You have to go back to 2000 for the last time Nicole Cooke stood on the podium here, but against four AA Drink riders, winning another title could prove difficult.
National Road Race Championships 2012: When and where
Date: Sunday June 24, 2012
Race HQ: Ampleforth Abbey, Ampleforth, York. YO62 4EN
Race start and finish: Ampleforth Abbey, Ampleforth, York. YO62 4EN
Times: (Women’s race) Race start – 9am. Race finish (approx) – 12.11pm. Presentation – 12.30pm. (Men’s race) Race start – 1.15pm. Race finish (approx) – 6pm. Presentation – 6.15pm.
The 107km-long women’s race comprises of seven laps of a 15.3km anti-clockwise circuit around Ampleforth.
Initially, the male participants will tackle three laps of a larger, 30.4km loop before riding six laps of the women’s circuit. This takes the total distance to 183km.
National Road Race Championships 2012: TV coverage
Gary Imlach and Chris Boardman will present a one-hour highlights package of both races, which will be first aired on ITV4 on Monday (June 25) at 7pm.
The broadcast will be available on watch on ITV’s catch-up service, ITV Player, after the first airing.
National Road Race Championships 2012: The favourites
Ian Stannard and Ben Swift (Team Sky), Jon Tiernan-Locke (Endura Racing)
Stannard’s one-day pedigree is improving rapidly, and may be given the status of leader having played the perfect team role last year. With a Tour ride unlikely, Swift will use the race as part of his Olympic build-up, and is potentially unbeatable in a sprint. Endura Racing look well-placed to take the fight to Team Sky, and the highly-rated Tiernan-Locke could be the one to end their unbeaten record in the event. Beating Team Sky could be the result that triggers a move to, er, Team Sky for 2013.
Team and kit differences aside, will the women’s race come down to a similar showdown?
Emma Pooley, Lizzie Armitstead, Sharon Laws (AA Drink-leontien.nl), Nicole Cooke (Team Faren-Honda)
The women’s race is once again likely to be a showdown between AA Drink-leontien.nl and Nicole Cooke. So close to the Olympics, the grudge match takes on added significance. Laws has the form, and could be the surprise package. Just no fighting ladies, OK?
Alex Dowsett (Team Sky), Scott Thwaites and Russell Downing (Endura Racing), Kristian House (Rapha-Condor-Sharp)
After missing out on an Olympic slot, Dowsett could target the road nationals to go alongside his British time trial crown. He worked hard for Mark Cavendish at the Ster ZLM Tour last week, which could help his form as he continues his comeback from an elbow injury. Thwaites in the defending under-23 champion, and there’s no doubting how well he is going this year. 2005 winner Russell Downing should be there or thereabouts, and we’ll insert the obligatory ‘he will want to beat Team Sky’ line in here, too. House is the last non-Sky rider to win the nationals, and his record in the big events is incredible. Sniffing out the moves comes as natural to him as breathing, it seems.
Lucy Martin (AA Drink-leontien.nl), Katie Colclough (Specialized-Lululemon), Sarah Storey (Escentual ForViored)
The ever-unselfish Martin would be a deserved winner. Colclough rode solidly in last week’s Giro del Trentino, while Sarah Storey impressively finished second in the Fred Gratton ’25’ on Sunday.
Also watch out for…
Ian Bibby (Endura Racing) – impressive in one-day races in 2011, and is due a big result this year.
Andy Fenn (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) – fast finisher. Will he ride?
Dan Lloyd (IG-Sigma Sport) – Twice a runner-up here.
Catherine Williamson (Team Bizhub-SCF) – eighth in 2011.
Emma Grant (Team Optum) – American-based rider, top 10 finisher last year.
Bibby and House during last year’s race
National Road Race Championships 2012: Last year’s top 10
1. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) in 4-41-08
2. Geraint Thomas (Sky) at 35 secs
3. Peter Kennaugh (Sky) at same time
4. Ian Stannard (Sky) at 5-41
5. Ian Bibby (Motorpoint) at 8-02
6. Kristian House (Rapha Condor Sharp) at 8-05
7. Ben Swift (Sky) at 8-13
8. Yanto Barker (Pendragon) at 8-20
9. Scott Thwaites (Endura) at 8-28
10. Andrew Fenn (AN Post-Sean Kelly) at same time
1. Lizze Armitstead (Garmin-Cervelo) in 2-28-40
2. Nicole Cooke (Mario Cipollini-Giordana) at 2 secs
3. Sharon Laws (Garmin-Cervelo) at 4 secs
4. Emma Pooley (Garmin-Cervelo) at 8 secs
5. Laura Trott (Moving Ladies) at 2-48
6. Lucy Martin (Garmin-Cervelo)
7. Dani King (Horizon Fitness RT)
8. Catherine Williamson (Konica Minolta)
9. Katie Colclough (HTC-Highroad)
10. Emma Grant (For-Viored-Brookvex) all at same time
National Road Race Championships 2012: Previous winners
For a comprehensive list, see our Nationals roll of honour page.
2008 winner Rob Hayles
2010 Geraint Thomas / Emma Pooley
2009 Kristian House / Nicole Cooke
2008 Rob Hayles / Nicole Cooke
2007 David Millar / Nicole Cooke
2006 Hamish Haynes / Nicole Cooke
2005 Russell Downing / Nicole Cooke
strong>2004 Roger Hammond / Nicole Cooke
2003 Roger Hammond / Nicole Cooke
2002 Julian Winn / Nicole Cooke
Cooke triumphant in 2009, with Pooley and Armitstead close behind
National Road Race Championships 2012: Preview videos