Reigning British time-trial champion Alex Dowsett is aiming for a record-breaking fourth title in Monmouthshire on 26 June but with a tough course and world-class opposition, he accepts that the race will be closer than ever.
The 25-year-old from Essex took the title first in 2011 has retained it ever since; last year coming back from an early accident to take the jersey by 21 seconds from time-trial purist Matt Bottrill.
The 2013 course was a traditional one in many respects however organisers of the 2014 event have come up with something special; a hilly technical course including a challenging climb through Celtic Manor that peaks at over 20%. This and a start list containing Olympic time-trial champion Sir Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas means that retaining the title will be harder than ever.
"I've got quite used to the national champs jersey now having had it for three years and I'd quite like another year in it,” said the Movistar pro, who comes into the nationals after contesting the tough nine-day Tour du Suisse.
"I think this year's going to be the hardest nationals I've ever had - in terms of fighting to keep the jersey. Obviously with Brad and Geraint here it's not going to be easy.”
In spite of the presence Wiggins and Geraint Thomas on the starting line-up, Dowsett knows that in time-trialling, focussing on your own performance is all you can do.
“I'm going to go out and do my utmost to go as quick as I can around that course,” said the Commonwealth Games silver medallist.
“The only advantage I'll get is that I'll know with Brad being my two-minute man and Geraint behind six-minute man, I'll be getting splits on them, whether I'm up or down so I can adjust my ride accordingly and try and get the best out of myself.”
Dowsett can take some confidence in his results this year - top five finishes in the Giro del Trentino and Volta ao Algarve time-trials and a win at the Circuit de la Sarthe. Most recently he smashed the British ten-mile time-trial record, setting a new record of 17 minutes and 20 seconds, carving 25 seconds off Michael Hutchinson’s previous best.
Despite this, Dowsett remained cautiously optimistic given the quality of the field.
"I haven't beaten Brad in a TT this year,” said Dowsett. "With Brad there and the form Geraint's on lately... I know I can be competitive. If I have a good day I know I can be very competitive with them.
"I have been going well this year. Everything's kind of gone well so far. But there are two of the best bike riders Britain's ever produced here so it's going to be no mean feat regardless of what I've achieved this year.”
The challenging parcours is something that Dowsett is mindful of in light of his rivals’ climbing ability.
"For us guys who race in the WorldTour it's going to suit us more than it us more that the likes of Matt Bottrill who's more used to pure time-trials. That's going to sway it in our favour,” he said.
"Brad's and Geraint's climbing ability are both second to none but it's not always about how well you go up climbs in a hilly time-trial - it's how well you manage the whole thing. That's something I think I can do quite well."
With the allure of a fourth-consecutive title on the cards, it would be easy for the Maldon-born man to feel the pressure. However Dowsett is keen not to let expectation get the better of him.
"In the back of my mind, no-one's ever done four on the bounce,” he said. “I'd quite like to do that. But I'm just going to go in and do the best ride I possibly can and what will be, will be.
"The only pressure there is the pressure I put on myself. Whoever wins that race, it's going to be a hard-fought race.
"At the end of the day I'm not going in there with the national champs jersey on. I'm going in there with a plain Movistar top so it levels the playing field. Everyone wants to be national champion so everyone is going to feel that pressure.”
British Cycling will be providing live updates from the championships at www.britishcycling.org.uk/nationalroadchampionshipslive.