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Rob Hayles (Halfords) has admitted that it will be difficult for him to defend his title at the British national championship on Sunday, in Wales.
"It's going to be a tall order this year. I've had to prioritise my season and unfortunately [the national championship's] have come at the back of one of the big priorities for us, which was the Tour series," Hayles told Cyclingnews.
On Thursday, Hayles secured the British Tour Series for his team with a narrow race victory over Malcolm Elliot (CandiTV-Marshalls Pasta) in the final round of the series, in Southend. Despite showing good form racing for Halfords, he admits that his criterium-laden racing program this year has not provided ideal preparation for Sunday's race in Abergavenny.
"In the last two weeks I've also put two road races in that haven't been that good. I haven't been switched on for them because of the Tour Series. Obviously that's behind us now and so for Sunday I will be a lot more switched on and motivated, but I have to be realistic," said Hayles.
"Last year I had fantastic form and although I'm going well in crits, [in] a four hour race with the Tumble climb in the middle I probably will struggle. But having said that, if I'm there, I'm going to race 100%, as I normally do."
Hayles sees the climb up Tumble mountain as one of the biggest challenges to his title defence. "No doubt I'll get dropped on that climb. Even the week before the nationals [last year] when I had fantastic form, I got dropped on that same climb in the Grand Prix of Abergavenny but I was able to get back to the front and straight into the next move."
Last year Hayles won his British title in a 203km race in Yorkshire. This year, race organisers have designed a significantly shorter 160km course. Asked how he felt this would affect the race Hayles suggested that the reduced distance could present it's own challenges.
"It's quite short and I was surprised when I saw that, but it won't necessarily make for an easier race. There's going to be a few guys who are looking at it and going 'Right, well I can last that distance, full gas, from the word go' so it could make it an even harder race, especially for the domestic guys," he said, before adding "Depending on how the big guns want to ride it."
There is a chance that Hayles will not be at the startline on Sunday. He and his wife are currently awaiting the birth of their second child. "Ever since last Friday [June 19 - ed.] it's been on-off-on-off. At these crits in the last week the phone's been in the pits and in the team car at the road races, just in case things happen," he said. "So I might not even be there yet, but [at this stage] my preparation is now all for the race."
"I'd love to win again, obviously. I've really enjoyed wearing the jersey because it took me quite a few years to get."