Preview: British Road Championships

After a successful Manx GP in 2016, the organisers this year will bring the Best of British to the Isle of Man in June

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Preview: British Road Championships

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It is without a doubt, the biggest ‘domestic’ set of road races in the racing calendar, the British Road Championships where the best British riders from the pro pelotons in Europe and UK come together to race for the ‘stripes’ (men and women).

There are exceptions, like Chris Froome and other ‘Tour’ riders who miss the Men’s race to concentrate on the Tour de France which is a shame for the British event and the fans who’d like to see these riders race here which they rarely do. But, they are ‘Tour’ riders and there are plenty of other ‘stars’ to distract the fans. Especially in the Women’s events where the big stars show the respect the championship deserves by entering and racing the event.

But what are the British road championships? It wasn’t that long ago I was travelling the country going to a men’s champs one weekend, a time trial champs another and a women’s champs on another and it’s only in very recent years that the Brits are doing what the Aussies have done for ages and that is have them together. There is still room for the Junior road champs to be in there though as it was in my day back in Oz LoL.

This year, the road championships head back to the Isle of Man and it’s been a long time since events in the championships were held there as individual races. Back in the day, when there were pros and amateurs, the Professional championship was held on the ‘Rock’ a fair few times in the 80s and 90’s with the last one being in 1995 when Robert Millar was the victor.

Time Trial 
Men: 44.4km (27.6 miles) – 2 laps
Women/U23: 22.2km (13.8 miles) 1 lap

The last time however, amateurs raced for the title was 1980 (Steve Lawrence the victor) but the event goes back even further to the 60s and beyond before the creation of the BCF. Interestingly,as factoids go, the women’s title was held there in 1987 and won by Abby Mae Parkinson’s mum Lisa Brambani (1987) and back in 1998, Richard Hobby (son of Roger) won the under 23 title there. The Junior champs have also been held there but I think it could be the first time the time trial champs have been on the Rock.

It goes to show that the ‘Rock’ certainly has a rich history in the sport of cycling and it’s no surprise that in Douglas every Tuesday, hundreds of youngsters race to be the next Mark Cavendish, Peter Kennaugh and so on.

The championships returning to the Isle of Man though as a package of races, for men and women (road race and time trial), is a first and for the organising team, something they have been working towards since 2006.

The people behind this event are Steve Shimmin and Richard Fletcher who are the Directors of Manx International Cycling Ltd and Ollie Last who is Clerk of the Course and Technical and Gary Slack who oversees Course Infrastructure. Manx International Cycling Ltd are organising the event on behalf of the Isle of Man Cycling Association.

In 2016, they organised the return of the Manx Grand Prix on closed roads, something they would like to be an annual event and having such a rich history in the sport, having ‘momuments’ return to the sport after having lost so many of them over the last two decades, would be good for cycling. To kick start that then in 2017, all eyes will be on the Isle of Man for the British Road championships.

The courses & events
The championships will see two days of competition, time trials and road:

Thursday 22 June – time trials
Under-23 men: 1pm | Women: 11am | Men: 6:20pm

Sunday 25 June – Road Races
Women: 9:00am | Men (inc U23): 1:45pm

Time Trials
Three races will be contested; men, women and under 23 men on a lumpy course which will start climbing less than a mile from the start before reaching the coast road which is more or less flat to Kirk Michael before the climbing starts again.

This is where it joins the TT Course and heads the opposite way round to Ballacraine. Once onto the Cronk y Voddy (google it!), it flattens out a bit before descending Glen Helen and then flat to the finish in St John’s.

“It’s a challenging course for sure and if it’s windy it will make it even more challenging” says Ollie Last, clerk of the course and part of the organising team.

This is what he does … racing against the watch and Alex Dowsett goes into the time trial as favourite

We understand that last year’s Women’s champion Hayley Simmonds has already looked at the course which shows the importance the 2016 champion has put on defending that title against a class field that includes names like Claire Rose (2nd in 2016), Hannah Barnes (RR champ), Katie Archibald (World & Olympic track champ), Elinor Barker, Abby Mae Parkinson (10th in 2016) and Elizabeth-Jane (EJ) Harris (8th in 2016).

In fact the women’s field is packed with road stars; Nikki Juniper, Alice Barnes and Rebecca Durrell just three of many more on the start list. So the battle for the title will be a good but Simmonds for sure, based on history, is the over whelming favourite.

In the men’s title race, Alex Dowsett (Movistar) will attempt a record sixth British time trial title and he’ll face competition from 2016’s silver and bronze medallists James Gullen (JLT Condor and RAS winner) and Ryan Perry (Team Raleigh GAC).

Can Scott make it four titles as an under 23 on the Isle of Man

Looking for other challengers is easy. Like Jon Dibben who won the stage 6 Time Trial in the Tour of California could be a threat as could Ian Stannard, Owain Doull (former Under 23 medallist), Mark Christian, Richard Handley (5th in 2016), Peter Williams (4th in 2016) and Sam Harrison (6th in 2016 and a former Under 23 champion).

With such a testing course, it will suit the pros such as Dowsett who won by a minute and sixteen last year, but as the silver medallist from 2016, James Gullen said in a recent interview, his aim is to match his 2016 achievement in 2017, if not better it. It may not be a field packed with familiar time trial names as we would see for the 10 and 25 championships but it will go to a champion tester for sure!

The Under 23 title race sees Scott Davies, already a three time winner, resume his battle with Tao Geoghegan Hart who has been second and third in the championship to Davies. They certainly look like the contenders but there’s a name on the start list that could surprise – Connor Swift (Madison Genesis) who has been such a revelation this year. Other challenges may come from Gabz Cullaigh, Tom Baylis, Ben Hetherington, and Mark Stewart but on a course like the one they face, it would be hard to see either Tao or Scott beaten for the stripes but cycling can be full of surprises!

Proud of being champion, record holder and championship winner over many distances, Hayley Simmonds is the favourite for the womens TT title

Road Race
Whilst the time trials will certainly get the championships off to a great start, it’s the road races that will get the crowds out and the passion flowing as riders tackle the 38 mile (motorcycling) TT course which has two main climbs.

There is Glen Helen (half a mile at 10% plus another half a mile at 5%) about 10 miles in and then the mountain which consists of a tough three miles on a climb of over five or so miles but big ring towards to the top. When the Manx GP was held on it, there was no bunch sprint in the Men’s or Women’s races and I’m not expecting one for the championships either. This will be a ‘hard riders’ course!

Road Races
Men: 194km (120.6 miles) – 2 big laps/10 finishing laps
Women: 1 big lap/6 finishing laps (104km/64 miles)

The men will do two laps of the TT course and predicting how they will race it is impossible. There are 160 riders on the start list and so the pros will for sure, want to reduce those numbers down just to make it safer and the two climbs on the TT course will provide a helping hand for that.

How many of the men’s peloton make the eight minute time cut coming onto the finishing circuit is anyone’s guess. For a spectacle, a group of 40 or 50 would be good especially as they have 10 laps of the finishing circuit which is like a big crit with a lap distance 4.8 miles! And not a flat crit as well as the riders will face a sharp climb where it joins the TT Course at Cronk-ny-Mona.

The organisers are expecting the riders (men) to be lapping the finishing circuit in around 12 minutes which means fans will get to see a lot of the race as its enters its crucial period. The women’s race will do six laps of the finishing circuit, so again the fans will be treated to a great spectacle as the race unfolds.

The Stars of the Road
But who will be the stars of the show on the road?

In the Women’s event, where do I start! Defending champion Hannah Barnes and her sister Alice are entered as is former World Champion Lizzie Deigan. Nikki Brammeier is one to watch as for sure will be Dani King. Local Anna Christian will certainly want to be in the selection as will Rebecca Durrell and Laura Massey who are both very strong riders. In all, there are around 90 riders entered and so many names but can they handle their rivals on the mountain!

Names like sisters Lucy and Grace Garner in the same team colours, Katie Archibald, Molly Weaver on the comeback after a terrible accident and Nikki Juniper, back in form after a crash at the Tour of Wolds which saw her having an enforced rest.

A former world champion who can climb – Lizzie Deigan will be the big favourite to win the British title again

The Tour Series saw many young riders showing their strengths, Emily Nelson for one and Manon Lloyd for another. Elizabeth Banks is a name who could surprise in being in the selection as could Annasley Park. In fact, there are a load more names who could be in the selection like Amy Hill.

The women’s race could well be the most hotly contested of the two although the sight of Lizzie Deigan coming across the finish line past the grandstand on her own is one which I think many will expect to see on a course which gives her so many toys to play with in getting away on her own.

The men’s race
Like previous years and decades, the men’s race sees the latest European Pros against the British based ones. For the latter, the cha mpionships can be a bit unfair as they have spent the last three weeks doing crits but then there’s been plenty of climbing in them so perhaps with a little endurance work, they won’t be as badly hampered as many feel.

The line up in Douglas will be exceptional with many a world star and one rider the Rock will come out in force to see is Mark Cavendish. He’s been out of racing with glandular fever and there is still no word whether he’ll be able to start. He’s been on the island and on the bike so is expected to be out and about but racing is another thing. Perhaps a start and some miles in the peloton before a graceful exit and seeing the fans?

Proud of the stripes, Peter Kennaugh could be the first rider to win the British ‘Open’ championship title three times

Another rider I know who had/has this illness has taken a very long time to recover after not being rested and is still being raced sparingly so not seeing Cavendish racing may well be something we have to face even though it’s a cruel thing for the event, the rider and the Rock as a whole.

But even without Cav, the people of the Isle of Man will have other home grown favourites with a good chance of doing well.

Ian Stannard has won the title before (Ryedale) and is a ‘resident’ I’m told of the Island so knows the roads as does Ben Swift, another resident, so that’s two for the home fans but I reckon a certain Peter Kennaugh, also a former double title winner and medal winner has to be a favourite. When he’s hungry for a race, there’s little anyone can do to stop him and a home title … it doesn’t get much bigger than that.

Or, how about number 2 in the race Mark Christian. His teammate Adam Blythe is the defending champion and is number 1 but Mark will know the roads well and should be fired up for it as well as another local, former Junior champion Nathan Draper going for the Under 23 title.

Two riders here expected to be in the mix for the title, Tom Stewart winning Velothon Wales and Ian Bibby, winner of the Manx GP in 2016

The locals though should not have it all their own way even if Sky has a strong enough squad to decimate the race as it has done over the years. Here’s hoping that there are plenty of riders to take the race to team Sky like Alex Dowsett, Tom Stewart and under 23 Scott Davies. Or riders like former under-23 champion Scott Thwaites (a Lincoln GP winner too) who should enjoy the finishing circuit as could 2016 bronze medallist Andy Fenn.

Ben Swift’s cousin Connor should be in the mix as should a name that many will be looking too, the rider who won the Manx GP last year, Ian Bibby who has won two Prems already in 2017 and will be part of a strong JLT Condor team. Part of that will be Steve Lampier who could use his climbing legs to be in the mix along with others such as James Gullen.

Another name I’d like to see up there even though he’s a young’n is James Shaw who is getting plenty of hard miles in the Dauphine right now. Or will Matt Holmes of Madison Genesis, be the big ‘surprise’. Fifth in the Tour of Yorkshire shows he can ride with the World Tour pros and perhaps the British RR Champs will be just the ticket for him to make his mark in a big way.

With plenty of WorldTour pros to make the racing hard, that may well suit Matt Holmes of Madison Genesis

His teammate Richard Handley too and the possible selection after the first two laps could also include the likes of Liam Holohan and Dan Fleeman from Metaltek Kuota. So many possible names but only so many will have the legs on the day and I do hope for the fans that the selection for the finishing circuit will be a large enough one so that we can expect some great racing around Douglas.

And for those that really want to get involved, there is a mass participation sportive taking place on Saturday 24 June and will feature long and short course options on the same roads used for the road race championships, including a closed-road stretch over the mountain section of the Isle of Man TT course.

Travel and accommodation information for cycling fans wishing to travel to the Isle of Man for the championships is available at www.visitisleofman.com.

… continued after advert

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British Road Championships Honours List
(not inc. Circuit race)

ROAD RACE

MEN
2016 Adam Blythe
2015 Pete Kennaugh
2014 Pete Kennaugh
2013 Mark Cavendish
2012 Ian Stannard
2011 Sir Bradley Wiggins
2010 Geraint Thomas
2009 Kristian House
2008 Rob Hayles
2007 David Millar
2006 Hamish Haynes
2005 Russell Downing
2004 Roger Hammond
2003 Roger Hammond
2002 Julian Winn
2001 Jeremy Hunt
2000 John Tanner
1999 John Tanner
1998 Matt Stephens
1997 Jeremy Hunt
1996 Dave Rand

WOMEN
2016 Hannah Barnes
2015 Lizzie Armitstead
2014 Laura Trott
2013 Lizzie Armitstead
2012 Sharon Laws
2011 Lizzie Armitstead
2010 Emma Pooley
2009 Nicole Cooke
2008 Nicole Cooke
2007 Nicole Cooke
2006 Nicole Cooke
2005 Nicole Cooke
2004 Nicole Cooke
2003 Nicole Cooke
2002 Nicole Cooke
2001 Nicole Cooke
2000 Ceris Gilfillan
1999 Nicole Cook
1998 Mega Hughes
1997 Maria Lawrence
1996 Maria Lawrence

UNDER 23 WOMEN
2016 Alice Barnes
2015 Alice Barnes
2014 Laura Trott
2013 Laura Trott
2012 Katie Colclough
2011 Laura Trott
2010 Lizzie Armitstead
2009 Lizzie Armitstead
2008 Joanna Rowsell
2007 Nikki Harris

UNDER 23 MEN
2016 Tao Geoghegan Hart
2015 Owain Doull
2014 Ed Laverack
2013 Simon Yates
2012 Mike Cuming
2011 Scott Thwaites
2010 Andrew Fenn
2009 Peter Kennaugh
2008 Peter Kennaugh
2007 Rob Partridge
2006 Peter Bissell
2005 Ben Greenwood
2004 Dan Fleeman
2003 Keiran Page
2002 Jamie Alberts
2001 James Shaw
2000 Neil Swithenbank
1999 Charly Wegelius
1998 Richard Hobby
1997 Huw Pritchard
1996 Paul Manning

TIME TRIAL

MEN
2016 Alex Dowsett
2015 Alex Dowsett
2014 Sir Bradley Wiggins
2013 Alex Dowsett
2012 Alex Dowsett
2011 Alex Dowsett
2010 Sir Bradley Wiggins
2009 Sir Bradley Wiggins
2008 Michael Hutchinson
2007 David Millar
2006 Jason MacIntyre
2005 Stuart Dangerfield
2004 Michael Hutchinson
2003 Stuart Dangerfield
2002 Michael Hutchinson
2001 Stuart Dangerfield
2000 Chris Newton
1999 Chris Newton
1998 Stuart Dangerfield
1997 Graham Obree

WOMEN
2016 Hayley Simmonds
2015 Hayley Simmonds
2014 Emma Pooley
2013 Joanna Rowsell
2012 Wendy Houvenaghel
2011 Wendy Houvenaghel
2010 Emma Pooley
2009 Emma Pooley
2008 Sharon Laws
2007 Wendy Houvenaghel
2006 Rebecca Romero
2005 Julia Shaw
2004 Frances Newstead
2003 Wendy Houvenaghel
2002 Frances Newstead
2001 Yvonne McGregor
2000 Ceris Gilfillan

UNDER 23 MEN
2016 Scott Davies
2015 Scott Davies
2014 Scott Davies
2013 Sam Harrison
2012 Sam Harrison
2011 Douglas Dewey
2010 Andrew Griffiths
2009 Alex Dowsett
2008 Alex Dowsett
2007 Matt Brammeier
2006 Daniel Davis
2005 Ben Greenwood
2004 Ryan Connor

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