Following the hilly races in the Forest of Bowland, the Mendips and the North Pennines earlier in June, the last day of the month hailed the British National Championship Road Races which were held on the relative flatlands of Norfolk. The 190km route started in the centre of Norwich and headed north-east across the Broads to Cromer, then along the northern coast of Norfolk to Wells-next-the-Sea and into the Holkham Hall estate for two circuits of 14km, before heading back southwards to the finish in Norwich.
The men’s race incorporated the Under 23 category race with the prestigious red, white and blue National Championship jerseys at stake, and the winners having the honour of wearing these distinctive coloured bands for the following year.
Competition was expected to be fierce with many British riders based abroad returning for this annual highlight of the racing calendar, including World Tour riders such as Adam Blythe (Lotto Soudal), Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Alex Dowsett and Harry Tanfield (both Katusha Alpecin), Ian Stannard and Ben Swift (both Team Ineos); and Pro Continental riders such as Matt Gibson (Burgos-BH) and 2018 National Champion, Connor Swift (Arkea Samsic).
Eleven of the Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes squad members represented the team with Seniors: Jacob Hennessy, Alexander Richardson, Max Stedman, Tom Stewart, Charlie Tanfield and Ollie Wood; and U23’s: Matt Bostock, Callum MacLeod, Charles Page, Louis Rose-Davies and Jacob Vaughan.
The westerly winds were expected to influence how the race developed, but the moderate cross-winds and protective hedgerows meant that the peloton did not split into echelons as some had expected and it was purely the aggressive attacking actions of the riders that dictated how the race unfolded.
Dan Bigham (Ribble Pro Cycling), Chris Lawless (Ineos) and Mikey Mottram (Vitus Pro Cycling) made the first incisive break of the day but this came to grief with Mottram crashing after a chain slip at speed on a corner going into Cromer. Charlie Tanfield then moved across to the leading break along with Stannard and U23 rider Jake Stewart (Groupama-FDJ) making a lead group of five which worked well into the headwind along the Norfolk coastline.
However, with Lawless puncturing shortly afterwards, the group went back into the peloton.
The next attack came from Ben Swift and Tom Moses (Madison Genesis) which swelled to a group of fourteen riders including Tom Stewart and four riders from Madison Genesis as they approached the circuits around Holkham Hall estate at the half-way mark. As he often does, Stannard then took on the mantle as chief aggressor striking out alone.
Meanwhile attacks of various group sizes began to break off the front of the peloton with eventually a group of five riders freeing themselves and bridging across to Stannard with about 60km to go, and holding a lead of around the minute mark with 45km to go.
This group included Bostock and Richardson as well as Swift, John Archibald (Ribble) and Scott Thwaites (Vitus), putting Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes in a very strong position as the race made its way back towards Norwich with Bostock in prime position in the U23 category.
However, the weight of numbers of attacking riders coming up from behind, not least U23 riders Ethan Hayter (VC Londres) and Jake Stewart, meant that this group was absorbed into a larger group of 14 riders with around 25km to go. Aggressive riding from Richardson then helped a further mix of seven riders break free, again including Stannard, Swift and Archibald as well as Dowsett who had won the British Time Trial Championship earlier in the week.
As the closing kilometres clicked over, these latter four riders broke away following yet another stinging attack from Stannard to compete for the jersey and podium positions with Swift taking the win from Stannard in second and Archibald in third.
Hayter made a late move to snatch fifth place from Richardson and also secure the U23 riders jersey from Bostock who finished in 9th place overall and Jake Stewart in 10th.
There were further strong performances from young Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes riders with Jacob Vaughan in 24th place and Charles Page in 25th. Further finishers were Tanfield (33rd), Tom Stewart (44th), Stedman (75th), MacLeod (116th) and Wood (128th).
In an interview with Larry Hickmott of VeloUK shortly after the finish, 6th place finisher Richardson commented:
“When you are up there at the sharp end you always want more. When you take a step back and you realise you were at the sharp end of the race there are positives to take from that, but of course I am not satisfied with 6th place.”
After his second place in the U23 category Bostock reflected…
“It was always going to be a tough race to get right, and it becomes quite stressful trying to make sure you’re in the right place at the right time all race.
I didn’t feel great yesterday and with 70km to go I made what would be the decisive break but it wasn’t long after my legs already started to tie up.
A mixture of maybe following the wrong wheel and not having the legs anymore meant I was racing into the finish for the final places in the top 10. Before the race I would have taken a top 10 in a race like that and 2nd U23, but it was a little heart-breaking to be there and just run out of legs at the end.”
So following another great day of racing with eight points gained by Richardson’s ride, Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes increased their lead to six points over Madison Genesis with Team Wiggins Le Col twenty points adrift in third place, after 9 rounds of the Tour of Britain qualification events with a further five ounds remaining.
Written by Paul and Marina Stedman.
1, 4 and 7 – British Cycling
2 – Chris Doward
3, 6 – Paul Stedman
5 – VeloUK