Connor Swift’s (Madison Genesis) gutsy solo escape with 12km to go was enough to win the 2018 British Road National Championships men’s road race after a thrilling last 15km in Stamfordham, Northumberland.
On a day which saw Jess Roberts (Team Breeze) upset the odds in the women’s race earlier in the day, Connor, cousin of Ben Swift (UAE Team-Emirates) followed suit as he fended off late advances from former 2016 nationals winner Adam Blythe (Aqua Blue Sport) and Owain Doull (Team Sky) to pick up his biggest career win to date.
The final 12km was a thrilling affair as Swift’s race winning move seemed to catch a reduced group of five riders of Doull, Blythe, Ben Hetherington (Memil CCN Pro Cycling), Fred Wright (100% Me) and Robert Scott (Team Wiggins) off guard.
But ultimately Swift had too much for an advancing Blythe as he took home his biggest career win in front of an exuberant crowd in Stamfordham.
How the race unfolded
It took a while for a serious breakaway group to form, but when it did it contained some top British names including Doull, Swift (UAE Team-Emirates), Charlie Tanfield (Canyon Eisberg) and Blythe, and managed to escape the clutches of the peloton and work up a 3-48 advantage in the early stages of the race.
After the initial split of 17, it wasn’t long until the race began to animate as counter attacks began off the front of the peloton. Originally it was a group of six chasers which looked to close the gap on the breakaway, but that changed when Ian Stannard (Team Sky), Mark Donovan (Team Wiggins) and Tom Stewart (JLT Condor) looked to push on and close the gap to those in the breakaway with 46km of the race remaining.
Back in the peloton which contained the 2013 winner Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) and other WorldTour names such as Alex Dowsett (Katusha-Alpecin), their hopes of winning were over as the leading 17 pulled out an unassailable five minutes as they passed over the Ryals climb for a final time.
On the run-in back to Stamfordham when the race was entering the pivotal stage, Connor Swift looked to have instigated a dangerous split in the breakaway with the race entering the final 25km.
Pre-race favourite Blythe made the split as he sensed another national title, but just as it looked as though the reduced group was going to stay away to the finish some strong riding from Sky’s Doull meant the 17 came back together with the finish line looming.
With 12km remaining, Connor Swift looked to roll the dice with an ambitious solo-escape. The 22-year-old, who finished second in the 2018 Tour of Normandy, managed to eke out a slender 11 seconds advantage at it’s highest as Doull, Blythe, White, Scott and Hetherington chased him down.
With Swift still up the road in the final 2km, Blythe, a former winner, knew it was last chance saloon as he looked to try and bridge across to him. But in the end, the day belonged to the courageous Swift as his devastating late attack was too much for Blythe as he had to settle for second, with Doull coming home in third.
British Road National Championships, elite men’s road race: Stamfordham to Stamfordham (185km)
1. Connor Swift (GBr), Madison Genesis, in 4-19-06
2. Adam Blythe (GBr), Aqua Blue, at 22 secs
3. Owain Doull (GBr), Team Sky, at 25 secs
4. Robert Scott (GBr), Team Wiggins
5. Fred Wright (GBr), 100% Me, all same time
6. Ben Hetherington (GBr), Memil CCN Pro Cycling, at 27 secs
7. Gabriel Cullaigh (GBr), Team Wiggins, at 34 secs
8. Ben Swift (GBr), UAE Team-Emirates, at 59 secs
9. Joey Walker (GBr), Team Wiggins
10. Dexter Gardias (GBr), Canyon Eisberg, all same time