Ever since its announcement in April, the major talking point for the 2013 National Road Race Championships has been the course – the technical 14-kilometre city centre circuit around Glasgow is a big departure from the usual open roads courses that have been the norm for many years.
What effect will this have on the racing? And what kind of rider will this refreshing new spectator-friendly course favour?
At 184-kilometres, the race length is comparable with past editions but the circuit itself has many of the features of an (albeit elongated) crit circuit, plying the grid-iron pattern of Glasgow’s city streets with many tight 90 degree bends and some short, sharp climbs. While last year’s Yorkshire course played into the hands of pure road racers like winners Ian Stannard and Sharon Laws, the jury is out in terms of what kind of rider will prosper in 2013.
Highlights of the British Cycling National Road Championships will be broadcast on ITV4 on Monday 24 June at 7pm
Is the race likely to hold together through the climbs, descents, twists and turns for a bunch sprint at Glasgow Green? Hitting short but brutal climbs like Montrose Street a total of 13 times may nullify the challenge of the pure sprinters and favour the climbers. Or will a criterium specialist, used to the repeated accelerations and technical demands of a street course, prevail in Glasgow?
With the 140 rider start list littered with Olympians and World Tour riders there’s a healthy list of possible winners in any given scenario.
Given their dominance of the men’s podium over the last few years it would be hard to look past Team Sky for potential winners. Last year’s victor Ian Stannard will be in attendance but one could argue that the course might favour Stannard’s teammate Peter Kennaugh, who was instrumental in Bradley Wiggins’ 2011 win and who has already chalked up a Premier Calendar victory on the tight, technical, hilly finish of the Lincoln Grand Prix.
If there’s a bunch sprint and Mark Cavendish is in it, only a fool would bet against the Manxman, in stellar form following his red jersey victory in the Giro d’Italia. Although only supported by one Omega Pharma-Quick Step teammate in the shape of Andy Fenn, Cavendish has proved many times that he doesn’t need a lead-out train.
Another major threat in a bunch sprint will be BMC’s Adam Blythe, who delivered some impressive finishing positions during the Giro d’Italia. Blythe is joined by BMC teammate Steve Cummings, who also has three weeks of Italian kilometres in his legs.
However with strong domestic teams sending big squads to the nationals, the international teams won’t have it all their own way. Madison Genesis include British Cycling Olympic Podium Programme athlete Andy Tennant, the experienced Dean Downing and 2011 under winner Ian Bibby. Team Raleigh also look strong, with current Premier Calendar leader Evan Oliphant, 2011 bronze medallist Russell Hampton and criterium strongman Graham Briggs standout names.
Rapha Condor JLT also send a big squad of largely young riders, headed up by Ed Clancy, mentor to a quintet of under 23 contenders.
Team UK Youth have nine riders on the start list, Chris Opie in great form while Ian Wilkinson is ever combative. As befits their name, UK Youth have three strong under 23 riders including former European junior Madison champion Jon Mould.
Whilst major contenders for under 23 glory, the 100%ME team of George Atkins, Jon Dibben, Owain Doull, Sam Harrison, Joe Kelly, Chris Latham, Sam Lowe, Alistair Slater and Simon Yates is formidable, with world points race champion Yates capable of competing with the big guns – his combination of abilities of sprinting, climbing, attacking and tactical nous will be hard to handle.
Sixty two riders are on the start list to vie for the 2013 title with champion Sharon Laws returning after a warmly received victory in 2012. However, Laws is still recovering from a serious crash earlier in the year which left the rider in intensive care for six days, making a title defence an unlikely prospect.
2011 national champion and 2012 Olympic silver medallist Lizzie Armitstead is supported by Dolmans Boels team mates Emma Trott and Lucy Martin and is a serious bet for the title. The street course may suit a punchy rider like Armitstead, who took the 2011 title in a group sprint from the now retired Nicole Cooke in Stamfordham.
Missing from the mix is 2010 champion and Olympian Emma Pooley, who has been a regular fixture on the podium for the last three years however there’s no drought of pro talent with the mighty Wiggle Honda team of Laura Trott, Dani King, Joanna Rowsell, Amy Roberts and Elinor Barker in attendance.
Whilst a more familiar sight in team pursuit formation, it will be interesting to see what the trio of Olympic champions and their younger protégés will be capable of producing on the day. Laura Trott won the under title in 2011, while Rowsell took senior bronze in 2006 and 2008.
It’s easy to forget that the now familiar Trott is still in the under 23 category but if there’s a bunch sprint scenario it’s hard not to see Lucy Garner posing a serious threat in the under 23 and senior categories. The double junior world road champion will be the sole representative from Team Argos Shimano and will be a marked woman without team support - but that’s never stopped her in the past.
If combined team strength is a decisive factor then Matrix Fitness Racing Academy will likely be a major force in the under 23 race, with Hannah Walker, Corrine Hall and Harriet Owen amid their ranks. MG-Maxifuel Pro Cycling also sends a strong team with Hannah Barnes another strong under contender having dominated the Tour Series.