After an “easy” route last year which saw two relatively large bunch sprints, with Blythe and Barnes being crowned champions, the organisers have certainly came up with a grippier parcours this time round.
Will the reigning champions be able to defend their crowns? Let’s have a proper look at what’s in store for the riders.
The men’s race will incorporate two laps of the large circuit and 10 of the smaller circuit, totalling 193km. Whereas the women will only do one lap of the large circuit and 6 of the smaller one, totalling 103km.
You can view an interactive route profile here.
As you can see, the main focal point of the opening circuit is the tough climb of ‘Mountain Mile” that averages 7% for 4.8km. Tough enough to see riders get dropped early on, it will be interesting to see how whittled down the group gets here and if we see any early attacks from the big hitters.
Compared to the opening loop and Mountain Mile, the closing circuit is fairly benign. However, the repeated nature of it and aggressive racing will certainly wear the riders down!
The gradients are fairly shallow but there are some steeper pitches involved with some percentages of around ~8% in places. In fact, the second climb on the image above is closer to 8% for 400m but it flattens out at the top to bring the percentage down.
With only just over 2km from the top of the climb to the finish, those lacking a sprint will certainly be looking to make their move here.
Along with the course, one thing that could shape the race is the weather. It looks as if the riders will have a dry day, but it is the wind that they will be more concerned about.
With consistent winds of roughly 13mph (20kph) and gusts up to 24mph (38kph) the riders could certainly be caught out by crosswinds, especially on the larger opening circuit.
Areas like the one above (just after Mountain Mile) are certainly exposed to the wind and it could potentially but the riders on the gutter on the left hand side of the road as the wind will be coming from their right.
However, it should only be the opening circuit that sees any echelon/crosswind action because the majority of the finishing laps are protected by trees and hedgerows.
Given current form it is hard to argue against current champion Hannah Barnes regaining her title. Very strong in the TT on Thursday, she was incredibly consistent at the recent Women’s Tour and seems to have taken another step up again this year. She can climb, she’s strong on the flat and she can sprint. Ideal for this course! Will all of this racing catch up with her though?
Lizzie Deignan took a much more considered approach to the Women’s Tour but she will certainly be ready for this race. Having won a tough Tour de Yorkshire with a dominant ride, the 3-time National Champion will be looking to take home here 4th jersey here. Like Barnes, she can do everything and is the rider everyone will fear the most even though she has been a bit anonymous recently.
Still an U-23 rider Hannah’s sister, Alice Barnes, could possibly compete here as well. The climb of Mountain Mile will be difficult for her but if she makes it to the final circuit with the lead group then she has as good a chance as any. Arguably a faster sprinter than her sister, can she win family bragging rights and more this time around?
After a solid third place in the TT, Katie Archibald will be looking for another strong performance in the road race. The Scot has really impressed me this season so far as she transitions from a track rider into a very versatile “roadie”. She won’t be dropped on the climbs but it her may be her inexperience in the wind that could be her undoing.
Dani King for a while looked as if she was going to hold on to the coat-tails of the flying Boels duo at the Tour de Yorkshire but it wasn’t to be.I’m still confused as to why she didn’t make the Olympic squad last year but that’s a debate for another day. A very consistent rider, she had a quiet Women’s Tour but still managed to finish 9th on GC, not bad! After being a loyal domestique for a few years, learning the trade, she moved teams during the winter to take more leadership opportunities. No better place to take your first pro win than at Nationals!
Others who could be in contention include; Simmonds, Garner, Barker and Christian.
There are two strong favourites for this course in my opinion and they were 1-2 on Alpe d’Huez not too long ago…
Pete Kennaugh will be looking to make history this year by being the first male rider to win the road race three times. A great one-day racer for this type of parcours, I’m sure he’ll be bitterly disappointed about missing out on the Tour squad. With that in mind, he will no doubt be going all out to win here. Will the local support be enough to see him win?
Ben Swift performed exceptionally well to come second behind Kennaugh on Alpe d’Huez, only losing ~15 seconds in the end. An under-rated climber, he should be able to cope with everything that he will face tomorrow. With a fast sprint as well, he is a force to be reckoned with. He’ll be out-numbered by other teams but that might not matter if he’s able to follow the best in an attacking race. The one issue is that no one will really want to bring him to the line.
The same can be said for a recovering Mark Cavendish. The Manxman would have been relishing the opportunity to race for the national title on home roads but he has only just returned to racing after missing a large chunk of the season with Epstein Barr virus. He notched up a second place on a stage at the Tour of Slovenia and with the Tour de France around the corner, I have a feeling he’ll be going better than he says he is. He might not even show it tomorrow, but a hard race will do him good before next week.
Kennaugh isn’t Sky’s only option, Tao Geoghegan Hart is another candidate. The youngster produced a very solid time trial on Thursday, a discipline that’s not his strong point. He clearly is in good form and we could see Sky adopt some attacking tactics, using Geoghegan Hart to go in an early move that might just stick.
In a race that could become very open due to the attacking nature of it and the wind conditions there are several Continental riders who could have a chance.
Bibby (JLT), Holmes (Madison Genesis) and Williams (One Pro) are all riders to consider.
There is one rider I am going to keep a watchful eye on though and that is Scott Davies of Team Wiggins.
He won the U-23 TT on Thursday. More importantly, he was very impressive at the recent Baby Giro, finishing that race 4th on GC. Flying at the moment, he may take advantage of still being a “lower-level” rider and surprise a few tomorrow. The way he’s been riding, he shouldn’t be dropped on the climbs, that’s for sure!
I’ll go for Hannah Barnes and Kennaugh wins, but with Davies to podium too!
No women’s odds yet, but SkyBet might have something tomorrow. They had TT odds on the day of the event. As for the men…
Not much value in Kennaugh, but I’m willing to double him up with Aru in what is a hilly Italian course.
Kennaugh/Aru 1pt EW Double @ 65/1 with Bet365
Davies 0.5pt EW @ 50/1 with Bet365.
Thanks as always for reading, and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win the races tomorrow? Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.