Peter Kennaugh (Great Britain) will go into Saturday’s under-23 world championship road race as one of the medal favourites, a fact the Isle of Man rider acknowledges with a little reluctance and apprehension.
In what will be his last race before turning pro with Team Sky, the highly rated Kennaugh is set to be the designated leader of a strong five-man British team. And he will be aiming to maintain the country’s recent good record in this event, thanks to Ben Swift’s fighting fourth place last year, and Jonathan Bellis’s bronze medal in 2007.
“It’s quite emotional,” said Kennaugh on the eve of his final outing as an amateur. “All you think about when you’re younger is turning pro. I was nine or ten when I started reading cycling magazines and dreaming about it, but now it’s come round and it’s really hit me this week.”
The 20-year old continued: “Am I scared? Am I nervous? Am I excited? Because I’m turning pro I feel I should be one of the guys making the racing [on Saturday] and up there. You look at some riders and think: how the heck do they turn pro, especially when you beat them. But now I’m that guy and so I feel there’s a bit of pressure to perform from that aspect. It’s also my last race as an amateur so I’d like to go out on a high. I’m pretty nervous.”
The pressure is increased, he admitted, by the attacking performance of Swift last year, and Bellis’s medal the year before. “It would be a shame for no one to be up there on Saturday with what’s gone on in the last two years,” said Kennaugh. “Before that it was 40 years back to Tom Simpson [who won the world professional road race in 1965]. It shows the [British Cycling] Academy is working.”
He singled out the Italian and French teams as the biggest threat in Saturday’s race. “For me they’re the two strongest nations, because they don’t seem to have just one strong rider; they have six of the same capabilities. When you watch the big races these nations have riders covering every move, whereas other nations will have a rider in a break and that’ll be it – the others will be hanging on. Italy, France and also Germany seem to have riders all over the bike race. It’s something for Britain to aim at, and it is starting to come.
“Saturday’s course is one where you have to be ‘on it’ all the time,” Kennaugh continued. “One thing I hate is when people get back on after a climb. But here you go down then straight back up again, and that should sort the men from the boys. It will be possibly more down to strength than anything, but I think the first couple of laps will be sketchy and dangerous. I just hope it doesn’t rain.”
Follow Cyclingnews on Twitter for the very latest coverage of events taking place in the cycling world - twitter.com/cyclingnewsfeed