Spot Interview: Peter Kennaugh Denied Gold

VeloUK talks to Peter Kennaugh who was on the podium for the fourth time since he turned senior in 2008 after a race where he attacked from start to finish

Watching a race from the back of a motorbike (thanks to  pilot Marc Harper) is a privilege and even more  so when you get to see some great athletes in action  and one of those on Sunday was Peter Kennaugh. I think I saw every race face he has on the climb of the Ryals as he attacked that with everything he has and with five miles to go, he was still attacking.

That final attack however was one too many and the counter by Bradley Wiggins saw him race to the title while Kennaugh had to settle for the Bronze, his second in this event to go with the two Silvers. His performance however was all the more remarkable as he was still back home on the Isle of Man on the Friday before the race, unsure if he was even going to race it.

The end is nigh for Kennaugh’s title hopes as his attack is countered by Wiggins and the Tour contender goes it alone to the finish.

Peter kindly came over to talk to me while I was uploading the pictures from the race and he started by saying “because of I have been ill this week, I really wanted to sit back in the first hour but it’s the National Championships and you can’t help but get excited and go with moves. Before I knew it, a quarter of a lap in, I was in a four up break with Cav chasing the break and then he punctured.”

“That left me in no-man’s land which was a bit worrying and I thought I’m using up a lot of energy here. Then I saw Brad and Stannard coming across on the first lap and I thought I’m going to give it everything up the Ryals and I just smashed it and went over the top with them two (and Ian Bibby) and we got across to the break.”

“After that it was pretty much through and off for 180k.”

Kennaugh splits the field and soon a chase group forms to go after the break a few seconds up the road.

Peter though wasn’t about to give any quarter to the domestic  based pros and it was he that saw that Team Sky were the only team represented at the front of the race.

“The racing we get to do on the continent gives us that extra level and when they are hurting, our legs are quite fresh so hats off to them,  they all raced hard and raced well, and gave us a good fight. After the last time up the climb, I was trying to attack but there were so many people watching, it was hard to get through and I eventually got past Stannard and gave it some over the top and put everyone under pressure.”

“In the end, the move finally went on the flat. No-one was wanting to follow wheels; everyone was a bit cagey and I was like ‘you only ride like that when you’re suffering a bit’ so I chipped off and sat up 100 metres in front of the guys and the next thing, Wiggins was straight across and then G and we knew straight away that was it and the medals were secured.”

The chase group with Kennaugh is about to join the leaders.

The trio then team time trialled their way round the finish circuit before with a lap or so to go, each of them went back to the team car and had a word with Dave Brailsford as well getting a gel or two. Asked to give us an insight into what was said, Peter replied “it was a tricky situation what with all three of us being teammates and all good friends.”

“Dave just wanted to say the same as last year, which was best of luck and that is what is great about Dave. He loves the bike racing and said may the best man win. I was pretty disappointed not to win it in the end and maybe one day it will come.”

“My preparation was terrible this last week lying in bed all day. The longest ride I did I think was an hour. Friday, I rang Rod (Ellingworth) and said I am not well enough to do it. I had gone out on my bike and had really bad sinuses and my eyes were sore and my nose was really blocked up. I told him I’m not doing it and that was that.”

Peter Kennaugh manages to find a gap between Ian Stannard and the crowd to launch yet another attack in an effort to split the lead group which he did…

“But, I set my alarm for 8am on Saturday morning just in case and woke up and felt a spring in my step so I thought I had better get out on my bike and see how I am. I went out and made an effort, and my legs felt good but my heart rate was really high. I did a seven minute effort and my average heart rate was 200 so there was obviously still some sort of illness going on but the feeling I got from my legs told me I could race.”

“So I got back, rang Flybe and asked when the next flight to Manchester was and they said an hour and half so I threw my stuff in the bag and jumped in the car. When I arrived, I sat on a train to Newcastle and was thinking ‘what is going on here’ and in the end, I got a good result.”

Kennaugh still driving it over the top of Ryals having put a lot of the riders in the break in difficulty.

Team Sky Dominance
“The style of racing suited us from Sky. Cav is the best sprinter in the world  and fair play to him, he was pretty unlucky with the puncture and he could have been there. I seem to ride well at the nationals every year and I think that is because you have to put your nose in the wind a lot and that is the racing I am used to where as a lot of the other guys from the continent are protected by their teams. It is still hard what they do, but it’s why the nationals suits me and a few of the other Sky riders like Geraint and Brad.”

Asked what has been his highlight of the year, Peter replied “the Giro and the Route de Sud. The Giro was certainly an eye opener and I gained a lot of experience. I was just so happy with the way I came out of it. I don’t know if it was because I had done so little racing before it, but I came out of it really fresh mentally and physically. I had a lot of enthusiasm for riding my bike which was strange because I thought after doing three weeks in the Giro, I’d want to put the bike away for a bit.”

Another of Kennaugh’s digs as he tries to get rid of the non-Sky riders including former champion Kristian House.

“But, I was really enjoying going out so I had good morale for the Route de Sud and I raced everyday hard there and ended up with a  good GC (3rd overall) but I didn’t ride it like a GC rider. I was always on the attack and going with moves and it was just good to be involved at the sharp end of the bike race and getting in the mix and sprinting and so on. I hadn’t done that for a while so it was enjoyable.”

“2011 has been a much better year for me. 2010 was a massive change for me and some people struggle with that more than others and maybe it took me the year to find my feet and obviously the Vuelta thing was quite horrific and ended my season quite early. I’d also decided not to go to the Commonwealth Games which was probably the wrong decision looking back.”

And another attack …

“This year I have found my feet more and sort of feel I can race a bit more having learnt the ropes.”

Asked what now for his season, Peter replied “I get to watch the guys in the Tour but I’m also going to the Vuelta so two Grand Tours for me this year which is quite exciting.”

“I’d also like to do the Worlds with Cav what with both of us being Manx and having known each other for years. For me, to be in that team would be such an honour so hopefully I can take it easy for a bit and then build up and really hit the Vuelta hard and carry that form through to the Worlds and be selected.”

And another… this one saw Endura Racing’s Ian Wilkinson’s legs go pop and the writiing was on the wall for a few others as well…

At 22, Peter says he’s in no rush to go to the Tour de France though. “I really like the Giro, the way it is raced, the style of racing and the parcours so maybe I’d like to go back and do the Giro again and also have a look at the classics in the Ardennes.”

You can also be sure Pete will back at the nationals again next year, another year stronger, another year wiser and maybe, just maybe, the jersey will be his next year …

And Kennaugh goes again, this time dislodging House and Bibby as Geraint  Thomas and Brad Wiggins give chase…

Kennaugh has his turn at the team car to talk to Dave Brailsford…

Peter Kennaugh, a terrier of a rider who attacked so many times he was the man of the race for me tries his luck with five miles to go but Wiggins is lurking on the wheel of Thomas and ready to pounce…

Thomas comes in for second with Kennaugh in third. The title has to go the way of the 22 year old Kennaugh some time soon after four medals in four years.

Yet again, an all Team Sky podium with Kennaugh and his Bronze medal (left) along with Wiggins (centre) and Thomas (right).

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