Lizzie Armitstead confident ahead of British Cycling National Road Championships title defence

Lizzie Armitstead confident ahead of British Cycling National Road Championships title defence

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Defending national road race champion Lizzie Armitstead has said that she wants to make the race as hard as possible when she takes to the line in Abergavenny on 29 June.

The Boels Dolmans professional stated that she wanted to make an early selection and take the race on from the front on a challenging 101-kilometre circuit in South Wales.

Armitstead approaches the nationals at the mid-point in a stellar UCI Women’s Road World Cup campaign, the 25-year-old leading the series with 420 points ahead of Swede Emma Johansson on 260 points.

And despite recovering from an illness that forced her to withdrawal from the Friends Life Women’s Tour in May, Armitstead is confident of her form in the run-in to the national championships. 

“It's been a really good season so far. I didn't expect it to be so good so I didn't expect that I'd be fighting for the world cup title so I've had to change a few things around,” said Armitstead.

The Olympic silver medallist’s confidence comes despite admitting that she won’t be at her absolute peak in Monmouthshire, with bigger events just around the corner.

"Nationals is always a massive goal for me but this year I had the Tour of Flanders, the Commonwealth Games and the world championships as a goal so nationals falls a little bit too early to be peaking in time for Commonwealth Games,” she said.

"I'm training through it but I'm confident that I'm in good enough shape to defend it."

Just prior to heading back to Britain, Armistead had a stint of racing and training in Spain, where she took second place in the Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria (1.2) one-day race and two second-place stage finishes in the 2.1 classified Emakumeen Euskal Bira.

"I was pleasantly surprised in Spain,” she said. “The racing was in the evening and I was going out for a few hours in the morning so I didn't put too much pressure on myself within the stage race to do anything but I still came away with two seconds and a fourth so it was alright."

Last year in Glasgow, Armitstead broke away from the field with a select group including Wiggle Honda’s Laura Trott and Dani King, eventually shaking-off Trott on one of Glasgow’s many short, sharp climbs.

This time, the two-time senior national champion sees the other continental pro road riders as her major rivals for the title.

"Although Wiggle are really strong I'm not totally focussed on them as my main competition,” she said. “It's more the road riders; Sharon Laws, Emma Pooley, Lucy Garner and Hannah Barnes that I'm more worried about.

"No disrespect to Wiggle obviously - as a unit they're very strong but I wouldn't want to take Hannah or Lucy to the finish in a sprint."

It will come as no surprise to Armitstead fans or competitors that the Otley-born woman intends to take the race by the scruff of the neck, a tactic that paid dividends in Northumberland in 2011 and Glasgow in 2013.

With the long lap featuring a series of gradient spikes in the latter half of its profile before a final 28.8 miles on the Abergavenny circuit, the 2014 course is the perfect arena in which Armitstead can take control.

"It's going to be difficult for me but I like to race from the front anyway,” she said. “I like to be in charge of how the race is going.

“I want it to be a hard race. The harder the race the better for me.

"If it's hillier to start with then I'll have to start attacking earlier. That's as simple as it is really.

"That will be the only place to make the selection when you haven't got a team around it's a case of making them follow you I suppose,” she continued.

"I'll be taking it on. It's in the hard parts of the circuit that I'll aim to make the difference."

With the road race her main focus, Armitstead revealed that she wasn’t 100 percent sure if she would ride the time-trial on 26 June, after finishing second behind Joanna Rowsell in the 2013 edition.

"My main focus is Commonwealth Games and I'm doing the time-trial there as well,” she explained. “If I was to do the nationals then it would be a great preparation for that but having been sick after the Friends Life Women's Tour I'm feeling like I'm a couple of weeks behind.

“So I need to make the most of the time that I can train so I'm not making the decision just yet.”

Despite having a world cup lead to defend and some massive events ahead, it is clear that the national champions jersey has a talismanic effect.

"(Being national champion) you get the privilege of starting at the front of the race which is always handy.

“It's a proud moment in Europe to be able to ride as the champion of Great Britain."

"It just gives you a big sense of pride really and you feel like, although you're representing your trade team you're also representing your country."

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