Championship Week in Abergavenny This Year
Story posted May 13; Event: 20th – 28th June 2009
Event Website: www.Abergavennyfestivalofcycling.co.uk
By Larry Hickmott
The town of Abergavenny (Wales) is going to be taken over by British Cycling events in June when the Welsh town plays host to a festival of cycling including three British road race championships for Men, Women and Juniors as well as an Elite circuit race on Friday night.
The weekend of racing is a spectators dream because not only will the best of the British based riders be racing across three categories in Abergavenny, but many if not all, the European road stars will be racing for the coveted British champions jersey in the Men’s and Women’s categories. With the finishing circuit giving spectators unprecedented access to the racing, big crowds are also expected to turn up to cheer their favourite riders on.
Above: The last time the British Championships were in Wales the race was won by professional David Millar.
The last time the championships were held in Abergavenny, Garmin’s David Millar won the race with an awesome display of aggressive riding that only Daniel Lloyd could match. That year, the race had a finishing circuit around Abergavenny and this year, the race will do the same but the circuit will be different. “It's nowhere as hard as last year” says organiser Bill Owen referring to the hilly finishing circuit used for the Welsh GP in 2008.
“It is similar to last year but is run the opposite way and diverts before what was the big climb” Bill went on to add. The finishing circuit will see the women do two laps and the men 10 laps on a course that will travel through what was the finish last year and then straight through the town centre itself to finish near the Cenotaph in Frogmore street.
The race will also be using the A40 in the town for the race duration, something which took a Welsh Assembly order to close this important trunk road. Also important from a safety point of view is that the whole finish circuit (men or men and women) will have a road closure on it. “This will be the most secure and safest race on the calendar” says Bill.
The Great Britain Cycling Team’s Rod Ellingworth is one who thinks the race will be important to many riders wanting that champion’s jersey. Rod is currently working on a project of putting a British national men’s team together for the World Road Race Championships in the years leading up to the 2012 Olympics and is in constant contact with the country’s top riders.
He says of the British Championship "it's a major objective for riders on the continent to win their national jersey and wear it with pride throughout the year". Rod then adds “the Abergavenny course is a tremendous all-round test of a rider's ability, with tough undulations from Monmouth to the foot of the legendary Tumble Mountain and then a sprint to the line, which a rider like Cavendish will relish.”
Festival organiser Bill Owen said: "With the Junior National Championships also taking place in Abergavenny on the same weekend - that will be all three happening in the same town for the first time - it really is an incredible prospect.”
Above: Winning the British Road Race title is always an emotional moment, even for riders who have won World and Olympic medals like Rob Hayles.
"To have so many riders who could win the men's race all going for the biggest title in the country at the same time gives us, I believe, the best road race field the British Championships has ever had. This just goes to prove that road racing is catching up rapidly on the track dominance and we cannot predict at all which one of Mark Cavendish, Ben Swift, Roger Hammond, Bradley Wiggins, Geraint Thomas, Jeremy Hunt, Chris Froome or anyone else, like Russell Downing, Rob Hayles or even one of the youngsters such as Peter Kennaugh, will cross the line first. We cannot wait."
The Men’s race for sure will be an absolute corker of a race. In the domestic racing this year so far, the level for sure seems higher and we saw last year when Russell Downing went to the Road Worlds, how he was able to race with the Worlds best on a diet of mainly British races. The clash of the European based pros and the British based ones is a truly mouth watering prospect and from what I have seen so far this year, even tough courses like the one at Oakly have seen the race difficult to split by the stronger riders and with a slightly undulating finishing circuit in Abergavenny, will it be a year when a sprinter like Mark Cavendish or Ben Swift takes the title?
Maybe, but as the European professionals know, British style racing is very different to that in Europe and a repeat of last year when British based pro, Rob Hayles saw off the continental challenge is on the cards because the distance will suit the British based riders and the course should see more riders challenging for that title after 100 miles than ever before.
The Men’s race is expected to have a limit of 200 riders (queue to riders to get their entries in!) and to get them safely around the big loop, they will have an escort of 12 police motor cyclists and 15 NEG marshals who can stop the traffic.
Olympic and World Champion
Above: Winning the Women's championship is a good reason to spray champagne all over the place -- expect more of the same in Abergavenny this year.
The Women’s race this year is also expected to be the best for a very long time. Welsh rider Nicole Cooke has dominated that event for so many years now, a decade plus, but there is a wind of change in Women’s racing these days when it comes to British riders.
More and more British riders are basing themselves in Europe. As well as the rider’s in Nicole’s own Vision 1 team, there are the Under 23 Olympic Academy riders who are based in Belgium, and other riders like Lizzie Armitstead, who are racing for European teams. That all adds up to making the race probably one of the best British championships for many a year but Nicole Cooke for sure will still be the over whelming favourite with Lizzie Armitstead a very real danger.
Festival of Cycling: Events during the festival in Abergavenny include:
- Wales Open Criterium Race: Friday, June 26 (Youth and Elite)
- British Junior RR Championship: Saturday 27th June 2009
- British Women’s RR Championship – Saturday 27th June 2009
- British Elite Men's RR Championship - Sunday 28 June 2009
- Iron Mountain Sportif, (20/21st of June)
British Men’s Junior Road Race Championship: June 27
For the first time in many a year, the Junior championship is being held on the same weekend as the Elite Men and Women’s championships which is a major coupe for the organisers and a boost for the sport to have them all on the same weekend. The race for the juniors will start at 9am at the Cenotaph in the town centre (as will all three championships) and the riders will face racing a distance of 68 miles (110 kilometres).
The course for the event is rolling, with four major spikes in the course profile rising to a height of almost 150 metres. The Juniors will race around two laps of the course taking in the towns of Hardwick, Raglan, Monmouth, Cross Ash before finishing in the centre of Abergavenny.
British Women’s Road Race Championship – Saturday 27th June 2009
Following the Juniors on Saturday, will be the Women’s Road Race championship when the World and Olympic champion Nicole Cooke is expected to return to her native country, Wales, to defend her British title and aim for her 10th British RR championship. The race is a long one, 80 miles (125 kilometres) and starts in Abergavenny at 1pm.
Like the Juniors, the women will do two laps of a large circuit taking in Hardwick, Raglan, Monmouth, Cross Ash and Abergavenny before doing two finishing circuits which are 7 kilometres each around the town of Abergavenny. If it comes down to a small group sprint, which I think it might on this course, expect one of the best finishes to a women’s road race for many a year!
Men’s Elite British Road Race Championship – Sunday, 28 June 2009;
The following day, starting at 11am, will be the hottest British road race championship for Elite men in years. The race is 100 miles long (160 kilometres) and will do one large loop of around 64 miles with the awesome 3 mile (5 kilometre) climb of Iron Mountain (the Tumble) coming around the 40 mile mark.
The large circuit takes in the towns and villages of Usk, Raglan, Monmouth, Cross Ash, Hardwick, Iron Mountain Prime, Brynmawr before returning to Abergavenny where the riders still in contention will do ten 7 kilometre finishing circuits. It all adds up to the prospect of a late lone attack or it could be a bunch gallop of perhaps 20 or more riders. Which ever it is, the race is sure to be an exciting one.
Wales Open Criterium Race: Friday, June 26 (Youth and Elite)
This is on a smaller course to previous years because of road works in the town and there will be two events, one (split into two categories) for Youth riders and another for Elites. The Elite race will be over 75 minutes on a closed circuit and entries are open to all riders with a British Cycling racing licence.
Iron Mountain Sportif
Also part of the British Championship Week is the Iron Mountain Sportif where cyclists can ride the course and more that the competitors (including our Olympic and Grand Tour hero’s) will be challenging in the Men’s British Road Race Championships.
With a choice of six routes over two days, the Iron Mountain breaks new ground with a course to meet all comers. From the flat plains and rolling hills to the down right serious climbs of the Iron Mountain, the course will test the stamina of all who venture onto it.
Day one is the tried and tested route as previous years while day 2 takes in the Wye Valley and Monmouth before climbing the little known Pwll Du with it’s dramatic ascent of the Iron Mountain before moving into Powys and the Brecon Beacons National Park, the pass of Cwm Sorgwm and the run down to Abergavenny.