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Mark Cavendish wins British national championships road race

Veteran sprinter comes out on top in epic road race.

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Mark Cavendish rode to an assured victory at the British national elite road race after an aggressive, attritional day of full gas racing in Dumfries and Galloway.

The Quick-Step AlphaVinyl rider, whose spot in the Belgian team’s Tour de France squad still remains in doubt, took his second national title after he was a constant presence at the sharp end of a long, hard day in the saddle in Scotland.

Cavendish confirmed that his Tour participation had not been decided. “I haven’t had a call from the team one way or the other. I’ve trained as if I’m going to the Tour, you can see my condition is there, I know if I went, I’d win.’

With the jersey on his back for the second time in his career, he went on to speculate.

“Imagine getting the 35th Tour de France stage in the British champs jersey, it would be pretty beautiful,” he said.

Also read: British national championships: Alice Towers goes solo for breakout victory

The men faced a 201.2km challenge with 1,588m of climbing en route, featuring four laps of a 22.9km circuit, before eight laps of a shorter 13.9km circuit around Castle Douglas.

With strength in numbers, British pro team Wiv SunGod were the first to assert themselves, with a pair of their riders attempting to distance the bunch. It was to no avail though, and Connor Swift (Arkea-Samsic) and Owain Doull (EF Education EasyPost) were among the WorldTour riders to put the hurt on the rest on wet roads as the riders battled high winds in typically dismal Scottish conditions. 

The first group to make a break from the bunch were the unlikely trio of Damian Clayton (Wiv SunGod) Nicholas Cooper (Sweden Cycling Academy) and Mark Cavendish (QuickStep AlphaVinyl). The three quickly stretched out a modest gap over the peloton with John Archibald, riding independently, and time trial champion Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) making it a group of five. 

Riding into a massive headwind, Hayter pushed hard to bridge the gap and the breakaway extended their lead as Ben Turner (Ineos Grenadiers) lit up the pace behind and caused stress in the chasing peloton. 

The front group maintained a slender lead, with a further group of five including Turner and Groupama-FDJ’s Jake Stewart bridging across to swell the ranks of the front group to ten. With conditions drying up, the peloton were still within touching distance, and more riders were able to escape the bunch and join forces, an unwieldy collection of over 20 riders now constituting the breakaway.

With half the race done, Ben Turner attacked, taking a group of three riders with him including Lewis Askey (Groupama-FDJ), Sam Culverwell (Trinity Racing) and once again Cavendish, who was determined to stay at the pointy end of the action. This time the group opened up a more significant gap of around half a minute, joined by a further nine riders including Connor Swift and Hayter, who was clearly on a good day. He launched a stealth attack through the feed zone and moved 25 seconds clear, over two minutes ahead of the fractured peloton with 60km to go. He was gathered back in though, and Doull and Askey both tried make an impression, with Cavendish hanging on resolutely, refusing to give an inch. 

He was part of the five-man group which eventually got away. It included Turner, Alexandar Richardson (Le Col), Matt Bostock (Wiv SunGod) and Sam Watson (Groupama-FDJ).

This group stayed together into the final lap. The first to drop was Bostock, who came off his bike after a touch of wheels with Ben Turner. Turner launched an attack but he wasn’t able to hold off the remaining three riders who moved past him to fight for the final sprint. Despite a hard-fought surge for the line, Cavendish was always going to have the better of his two rivals. Watson beat Richardson on the line for second place.

Cavendish said after the race: “I came good out of the Giro and I’m going so much better than last year, and you know what happened last year – I won 4 stages of the Tour de France and the green jersey. It’s unlikely I’m going to the Tour de France so I might as well use it today and at least show that the reason I’m not going to the Tour is not because I’ve got bad form.”

“Quite often I sit and have to sprint, but I enjoy racing, it’s why I started, and this course gave me the possibility to do that. We have a lot of good classics style riders in the Great Britain right now and to be able to race like that with these guys, it was pretty special.”

 

More to follow…