By Gerry McManus
The re-scheduled British men's road race championships will be the final event in a week of cycling based around the Welsh town of Abergavenny on Sunday, August 5. The festival started on Saturday July 28, with the Tour of the Black Mountains cyclosportif.
The championship event was cancelled in June as the severe weather conditions put pressure on the local resources when Yorkshire was hit with record rainfall and subsequent flooding. British Cycling made the decision to turn the Grand Prix of Wales into the championship event with the race calendar already pretty packed. The Robert Price sponsored event was already a British Cycling Premier Calendar counting event and was the perfect host. The GP of Wales and the British men's road race championship are now one event.
124 riders line up for the 172-km race which now includes the entries already accepted for the GP event. This means that the best of the British riders will be racing against the Ruiter Dakkapellen Wielerteam cycle team from Holland. Other non British national entries include former New Zealand national champion Gordon McCauley and his Swedish Plowman Craven / Evans team mate Freddie Johansson. British Cycling competition co-ordinator explained. "With the cancellation of the original National Title event, a new event had to be identified which both suited the International Calendar and which was up and running," said West. "It is of course it would be impractical for a brand new promotion of this magnitude to be established at this late stage."
"The only event which suited the situation is the Grand Prix of Wales," West continued. "The promoter of this event had already accepted entries from riders who would not qualify for the National Title. A decision was therefore made to incorporate the National Championship within this Premier Calendar Race rather than change the status of the Grand Prix of Wales."
First over the line wins the GP of Wales and first British rider over the line will be crowned national road race champion. The race features two Tour de France finishers in the shape of local lad Geraint Thomas (Barloworld) and David Millar (Saunier Duval-Prodir). Millar will know what to face in the Welsh terrain having finished second in the Junior Tour of Wales in his formative days.
Hamish Haynes (DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed) returns to defend the title he won last year when he pipped Roger Hammond (T-Mobile) and Thomas in the final sprint. 21 year-old Thomas will be much wiser this year and anxious to upgrade his bronze medal. Jeremy Hunt (Unibet), Chris Newton (Recycling.co.uk), Rob Hayles (Team KLR/Parker Int), Rob Sharman (KFS Special Vehicles), Malcolm Elliott (Pinarello RT) and Russell Downing (Team Health net/ Maxxis) are all expected to be in the mix fighting it out for the title. Elliott, Hunt (2) and Downing are all former British champions.
Newton leads the BC Premier Calendar series overall with Dean Downing (Rapha) in second spot. Third placed Ian Wilkinson (Science in Sport-Trek) is an absentee, probably on his mountain bike for the big event in Scotland. The race will also show how Plowman Craven/ Evans, Recycling.co.uk and DFL/Cyclingnews-Litespeed are shaping up in their preparation for the forthcoming Tour of Ireland at the end of this month.
The course is tough and undulating featuring two laps of a 53km circuit stretching out to Monmouth via Raglan and taking in Cross Ash on the return route. Welsh fans will be screaming for Geraint Thomas as the race finishes with seven laps of the 9km finishing circuit in Abergavenny. The race starts at 11am with the finish expected around 3.30pm.