Mark Cavendish, who shot to fame last year when he became the first Briton to win four stages of the Tour de France, has confirmed he will ride in this month's National Road Race Championships in Abergavenny.
The Columbia-Highroad star completes the best field ever assembled for the coveted British jersey, with Olympic gold, silver and bronze medallists, Tour de France winners and former national champions set to line up alongside him on the start line.
The race takes place on a challenging 160km course around the roads of Monmouthshire on Sunday, June 28.
Cavendish, 23, has had a great start to the year, winning the prestigious Milan-Sanremo race and two stages of last month's Giro d'Italia.
But he faces some stiff competition in Abergavenny, including Olympic gold medallists Geraint Thomas – a long-time friend of the Manx man and hoping to win the Nationals for the first time on home soil – and Bradley Wiggins.
Also riding are Tour de France stage winner David Millar, who won the National Championships in Abergavenny in 2007, Sydney Olympics bronze medalist and defending British champion Rob Hayles, and Athens Olympics bronze medalist Chris Newton.
Double former national champ Roger Hammond, winner in Newport in 2003 and 2004, plus the man who succeeded him in 2005, Sheffield's Russell Downing, who also swept all before him last summer on the domestic road scene, are also on the starting list.
Cardiff-born Thomas, 23, who won the team pursuit in Beijing last August, said: "People like Cavendish, Wiggins and Millar will be super-motivated, and you have the GB academy as well. So I think it will just be a super-hard and fantastic race."
Olympic and world champion Nicole Cooke will defend her women's national crown the day before, and the junior championships are being staged on the same weekend for the first time,
Abergavenny Festival of Cycling organiser Bill Owen said: "These are, without doubt, the best fields ever assembled for the National Championships. The men's race is wide open and I really don't know who's going to win it. To have Mark Cavendish entering just completes a sensational line-up. The course has numerous different elements which will test riders across the board so there is no obvious favourite."
For further information about the 2009 Abergavenny Festival of Cycling, which includes the two-day Iron Mountain Sportif on 20-21 June, the Get Connected! Welsh Open Criterium on 26 June and all three National Championships, visit www.abergavennyfestivalofcycling.co.uk. (HK)