Preview: Thomas, Cavendish, Armitstead, Trott headline British national championships

Lincoln Grand Prix cobbles to provide tough test for contenders

It’s that time of the year once again; when riders battle it out for the right to wear jerseys that will clash horribly with their team kits over the course of the following year.

Many countries’ national road championships take place this weekend, and in Lincolnshire in the north east of England, the prize on offer will be the British champion’s white jersey with its red and blue bands.

Lincolnshire was chosen as the host this year in no small part due to it being the 60th anniversary of the Lincoln Grand Prix, one of the most cherished races on the UK domestic scene. The race’s circuit will be used as part of the route for this weekend’s road race and will add a dash of history and prestige to the occasion.

The reigning champions are Peter Kennaugh (Team Sky) and Laura Trott (Matrix-Fitness) in the road races and Bradley Wiggins (Team Wiggins) and Emma Pooley in the time trials. While Kennaugh and Trott will be defending their titles, Wiggins and Pooely will not, the former skipping the event despite rumours to the contrary and the latter having retired.

The road races

The men’s (197.6km) and women’s (107km) races are both made up of two loops. The first, tackled once by the women and twice by the men, is 45 kilometres long and takes in villages to the north of Lincoln. They then come back into Lincoln itself for a 13km finishing circuit – 8.5 laps for the men, 4.5 for the women – which is familiar to the Lincoln GP. The showpiece will be the famed Michaelgate, a 300-metre cobbled climb with a gradient of 12 per cent. By the time the riders go up it for the ninth and final time before the finish line at the top in Castle Square, their legs will be well and truly sapped.

Given the nature of the course, it seems unlikely that Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep) will be able to reclaim the title he won in 2013. The Flandrian nature of Michaelgate and the finishing circuit would seem more suited to Geraint Thomas given his highly successful spring. Kennaugh, who won on this circuit in the 2013 Lincoln Grand Prix, certainly can’t be ruled out as he looks to become the first man to retain the title since Roger Hammond in 2004. Other WorldTour riders on the startlist include Simon and Adam Yates, Adam Blythe (all Orica-GreenEdge), and Ben Swift (Team Sky). Also racing are Steve Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka) and 2005 national champion and former Lincoln GP winner Russell Downing (Cult-Energry Pro).

In the women’s race, Lizzie Armitstead would probably have been the favourite were it not for her horrific crash at the Women’s Tour. She somehow managed to avoid serious injury and it remains to be seen if she will be on top of her game on Sunday, where she’ll be aiming to make it three titles in five years.

The woman she has dueled with in recent years, Trott, will no doubt be a threat. Armitstead got the better of the 23-year-old in 2013 but last year had to settle for third as Trott old took top spot on the podium.

They’ll face competition from 2014 runner-up Dani King (Wiggle-Honda) and multiple Paralympic champion Dame Sarah Storey (Pearl Izumi), along with Katie Archibald (Pearl Izumi), Lucy Garner (Liv-Plantur), and Elinor Barker (Matrix Fitness).

The time trials

The time trial course, split between a motor racing circuit and country roads, looks an interesting one. Riders will start and finish on the smooth, swooping tarmac of the Cadwell Park circuit, which is built in a steep-sided valley. In between they will head out onto fully-closed roads running along the top of the rolling Lincolnshire Wolds. The men will cover 44.8km over three laps of the main circuit and the women will cover 33.6km over two laps.

There will be no jersey defence from Wiggins in the men's field. Last year he ended a run of three straight wins for Alex Dowsett and this time the Movistar rider will surely be favourite to reclaim the title. He’ll face tough opposition from Thomas and Matt Bottrill (Drag2Zero), who has cleaned up on the domestic scene over the last couple of years and has been on the podium at the nationals five times since the turn of the century.

In the women’s event, three-time winner Pooley’s retirement leaves the door open for the likes of Archibald, a world champion on the track, and Storey – second and third respectively last year.

 

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