Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) put in an incredible performance to win the British National Road Championship for a second time, sprinting to victory after being part of the day's early breakaway.
The 37-year-old displayed the aggression and quality that has helped him to build up a vast palmarès throughout his career during a relentless national road race in Castle Douglas.
However, in Scotland it was Cavendish doing it all himself - no leadout train in sight - as he eventually beat off Sam Watson (Groupama-FDJ) and Alexandar Richardson (Le Col) in a three-up sprint after they escaped with 30km to go.
The Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl rider's other national championship win also came in Scotland, when he sprinted to road race victory in Glasgow nine years ago.
Watson, who put in a ride well beyond his years, picked up the U23 title alongside his second place finish.
HOW IT HAPPENED
A 201.2km route around Dumfries and Galloway awaited the riders as they battled it out to wear the British national champion’s jersey on the road for the next year.
A lumpy and relentless course that started and ended in Castle Douglas included four laps of a longer 22.9km circuit before eight laps around a shorter 13.7km loop.
The brutal weather conditions that played a key role in the women’s race earlier in the day had fortunately departed by the time the men had rolled out.
Once up and running, it didn’t take long for the race’s early breakaway to form, holding an advantage of around half a minute by the end of the first of the four longer laps.
Nicholas Cooper (Sweden Cycling Academy) and Damien Clayton (WiV Sungod) were joined, somewhat surprisingly, by a former winner of the race in Mark Cavendish.
Time-trial specialist John Archibald (Private Member) managed to bridge across to the leading group just as a crash in the peloton halted their chase.
All too aware of the strength of the breakaway, Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) was the next rider to set off in pursuit of the four escapees and soon joined them with around 170km to go.
As the kilometres ticked by, Cooper was dropped from the break and the gap between the leading quartet and the peloton bounced between just 10 and 20 seconds.
With a short advantage for the break, and 140km remaining, a group of seven riders, including Ben Turner (Ineos Grenadiers), Alexandar Richardson (Le Col), Matt Bostock (WiV sungod), Jake Stewart, Finlay Pickering (Groupama-FDJ), Sam Culverwell and Max Walker (TRINITY Road Racing), managed to make the junction from the bunch.
However, as the break swelled to 11 riders, the bunch were even less keen to let them out of sight.
As they entered the second phase of the race, eight laps of a shorter 13.7km circuit, another chasing group, with Owain Doull (EF Education-EasyPost), Connor Swift (Arkea-Samsic), Scott Thwaites (Alpecin-Fenix) among them, latched onto the back of the break.
The leading group, ahead of the peloton by more than half a minute for the first time in the race, now contained around 25 riders and it wasn’t long before counterattacks were made.
Turner, Cavendish and Culverwell were joined back at the front of the race by Lewis Askey (Groupama-FDJ), after the quartet managed to snap the elastic within the group and build up a gap.
However, those four riders were then caught with 75km remaining, although the group still held a 40 second advantage over the peloton.
That gap had extended to beyond a minute by the time the lead group reached the finishing straight to signal five laps remaining.
Hayter, who took the time-trial title for a second straight year on Thursday, set off on a lone attack soon after but he was then reeled in with 50km to go.
The racing in the front group was relentless and with three short laps left, no rider could find a way to go clear of the rest.
A number of the riders in the lead group were beginning to tire from the non-stop action though, as Turner, Cavendish, Bostock, Richardson and Sam Watson (Groupama-FDJ) eventually managed to make a move.
After several attacks that didn’t manage to stick, this one did, with the five riders forging a healthy gap of half a minute on the penultimate lap of the race.
Bostock was dropped from the lead group with 22km to go when he seemingly lost concentration momentarily and came off his bike.
The lead group entered the final lap of the circuit with a gap of a minute, and a winner looked more and more likely to be coming from this quartet.
Turner was the first rider to blink on the final lap, attacking with 10km to go and causing some hesitation amongst the rest of the break.
Yet an emphatic effort from Watson drew the Ineos Grenadiers rider back in on the climb before Turner paid for his efforts soon after when the trio dropped him.
The three riders pushed on, knowing that a medal would await each of them if they reached Castle Douglas as they were.
Richardson sat in the wheel as both Cavendish and Watson attacked each other but they couldn’t be separated going into the final few kilometres.
The pace dropped to almost a track start as they rode onto the finish straight, Cavendish sitting at the back of the trio, lying in wait and ready to pounce.
Watson and Richardson opened up their sprints first, but they were left helpless when the sport’s greatest sprinter got up to speed.
The Manx missile won by a bike length in the end, ahead of Watson who secured the U23 British National Road title in the process.
Richardson rounded out the podium, with Turner coming across the line half a minute later.
BRITISH NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS - MEN'S ROAD RACE: CASTLE DOUGLAS - CASTLE DOUGLAS (201KM)
1. Mark Cavendish, Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl
2. Sam Watson, Groupama-FDJ
3. Alexandar Richardson, Le Col
4. Ben Turner, Ineos Grenadiers
5. Matthew Bostock, WiV Sungod
6. Lewis Askey, Groupama-FDJ
7. Connor Swift, Arkea-Samsic
8. Owain Doull, EF Education-EasyPost
9. Ethan Hayter, Ineos Grenadiers
10. John Archibald, Private Member
Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1