Mark Cavendish wins road race title at British National Road Championships in stunning all-action display

Mark Cavendish (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) claimed the second British road race title of his career on Sunday with a stunning all-action display in Dumfries and Galloway. 

The Manxman may be known for his bunch sprinting but, yet again at Nationals, he showcased his all-round racing ability with an attacking and crafty performance in a typically chaotic edition in wet and windy Scotland. 

He was in several very early breakaways before entering the key 14-rider selection on the finishing circuit, then made the cut when it split in two and got down to the final three before, finally, he was able to use his sprinting speed to finish it off. 

If he hadn't, it would have been a big upset, given he was the only professional rider in the final trio. Samuel Watson is still an U23 riding for Groupama-FDJ's development team, while Alexandar Richardson has no team this year and is riding as a privateer.

Watson was an attacking presence in the finale while Richardson - who rode for Alpecin-Fenix last year - played poker and forced Cavendish to close gaps. The race, however, came down to the final drag up King Street and Cavendish prevailed, with Watson pipping Richardson to the silver medal. 

For Cavendish, it's a second road race title after his 2013 triumph, when he was in his first stint with QuickStep-AlphaVinyl. 

"I love nationals, it's a racing race, especially on this course. You've just got to put yourself in the race," Cavendish said.

"Quite often I sit and have to sprint but I enjoy racing - it's why I started. This course gave that possibility. We have a lot of good classics style riders in Britain now and to have a race like that with them was pretty special.

"I know most people wouldn't want to take me to the line so it's better to be proactive and whittle it down before than have all those people trying to whittle me down, and have to react. I tried to put myself ahead and let the others play catch-up."

How it unfolded

Cavendish tried to put himself out the front from the very first kilometres. With an eclectic mixture of teams - Cavendish being one of only two QuickStep riders - the race kicked off from the gun. And with wet and windy conditions on the rolling Scotland circuit, it was always going to be an unruly race. 

Cavendish went up the road in the first real move, with three other riders, and he was there again when the race reformed and went away with Ben Turner (Ineos) in another four-man move. 

When the race hit the 13.7km finishing circuit - to be tackled eight times - a selection formed behind and bridged across to the Cavendish breakaway on the second lap. With a pre-race favourite there in Ethan Hayter, Ineos Grenadiers had a strong hand but so did Groupama-FDJ with three riders, Lewis Askey and Jake Stewart there with Watson. 

Hayter launched a somewhat nonchalant attack to go solo with 65km to go. He crossed the line alone with four laps to go but drifted back on the next lap, triggering a relentlessly attacking portion of the race. Crosswinds on certain sections only added to the action. 

Cavendish played poker with Hayter and forced him to close a gap late in the lap, with the youngster responding by attacking out the front. But it was Turner on the next lap who sparked the winning move with a seated acceleration. Cavendish followed it, Watson and Richardson, and then Hayter swung out to let the wheel go. It split, and the rest would never come back.

Circuit race champion Matt Bostock was there initially but crashed out of contention in agonising style when he touched Turner's rear wheel on a short climb. The remaining four took the bell with nearly a minute in hand on the chasers. 

Turner launched the first big attack of the finale and the others scrambled to respond, with Richardson's game-playing intentions instantly clear. Watson dragged it back on the same small climb and Turner was quickly dropped when Richardson launched a surprise attack. 

Watson then looked to push on on the faster sections, and Cavendish was forced to respond, barking at Richardson to chase but receiving a firm 'no'. In the end, the three of them came together for the final kilometre and almost came to a standstill. 

Watson then took to the front on the drag up to the line, before Cavendish hit out and won it convincingly. 

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Patrick Fletcher

Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist, and former deputy editor of Cyclingnews, who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.

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