Peter Kennaugh and Lizzie Armitstead took the road race titles at today’s British Cycling National Road Championships in Lincolnshire.
Peter Kennaugh took his second successive British men’s road title in a remarkable race while Lizzie Armitstead delivered a stunning solo effort to win the women’s title.
Team Sky’s Kennaugh finally distanced a courageous Mark Cavendish on the ninth and final climb of Michaelgate in Lincoln. Ian Stannard completed the podium behind Cavendish.
After crosswinds saw the peloton ripped apart in the early stages, Kennaugh and Team Sky colleague Stannard escaped leaving Mark Cavendish, Luke Rowe, Scott Thwaites and Adam Blythe in pursuit.
Thwaites and Blythe dropped back before Luke Rowe decided to work with Cavendish to shut down the gap on his Team Sky associates with only three laps remaining.
They cut down the 40-second gap on the duo and bridged on Michaelgate – the eighth of nine ascents of the cobbles.
On the final 13-kilometre lap Stannard burst free but was caught before Kennaugh and Cavendish accelerated away leaving Rowe and 2012 champion Stannard to contest bronze.
It was fittingly left for the final climb of Michaelgate for the title to be decided and although Cavendish kept with Kennaugh the 26-year-old eventually pulled away to become the first British male to win back-to-back road titles since Roger Hammond in 2003 and 2004.
Team Wiggins’ Owain Doull impressed to finish seventh and with it take the under-23 men’s championship.
“The atmosphere is incredible and something I’ll never forget,” Kennaugh said.
“Obviously last year it meant everything – it was the first time – I’d been on the podium about four times before that so I really enjoyed this last year.
“I’m over the moon just to stay in white with my white bike and my white accessories!
“It means a lot to me and it gives you that extra motivation with that added pressure of carrying the jersey in the pro peloton – you can’t just get away with sitting at the back and stuff. You’re easily spotted.
“It’s good for the motivation – it’s good for the morale going forward for the rest of the year.”
Armitstead won her third British road title – after victories in 2011 and 2013 – with a solo attack on the penultimate climb of the famous Michaelgate. Alice Barnes, just 19 years of age, was second with Laura Trott third.
No rider was able to match Armitstead’s effort on the fourth of five times up the cobbled climb and the Boels Dolmans Cycling Team rider completed the last lap alone before crossing the finish line to the backdrop of Lincoln Cathedral.
“It means I get to be proud of being British in all the races that I do,” Armitstead said of being able to wear the British champion’s jersey.
“It means a lot – it means new kit for a start! I go to the Giro on Friday so it will be a quick turnaround for them.
“I had some good people around me before the start who told me to believe in myself and I listened.
“It was a difficult race. The longer the race went on the better I started to feel.”
Team Betch NL Superior-Brentjens rider Alice Barnes took a superb second, in her first elite road championships, to win the under-23 women’s champion title with defending champion Laura Trott, of Matrix Fitness, third.
While Armitstead savoured the win, behind her the race for silver and bronze came down to the final corners as Alice Barnes showed her huge potential in holding off the challenge of defending champion Laura Trott.
Full results from the women’s race can be found here and from the men’s race here.
Highlights of the championships will be broadcast on ITV4 at 6pm on Monday 29 June.
Over the last four years, one of the major regrets that I have had is the sport’s inability to retain female riders. I’ve seen some really promising talent appear for half a season, never to be seen again, some have been around for even less than that. Many find the sport hard, or just want to have a go to try it out only to disappear a week later. But if we want women’s cycling to grow, everybody has to stick at it, so with that in mind, I thought I would share my reasons for competing with you, in the hope that if somebody like me can do it, maybe you can too.
A bit of background
It’s been four years since I started competing again. Back then, I was working restricted hours, suffering from chronic fatigue, which meant that I had no energy to train after work and, even after the 45 minute circuit race, I fell asleep on the way home as I was so tired.
Time trialling on V718 in 2012
Following the 2011 season, I swapped medication under the guidance of my consultant neurologist. I have epilepsy, which is controlled, but my new consultant wouldn’t let me come off medication whilst I wanted to ride my bike and do all the things that most people take for granted. After being on sodium valproate for 15 years, I swapped to levetiracetam, which was a relatively new drug.
By March 2012, I had lost over two and half stone and for the first time in longer than I care remember, I could think much more clearly. I was still tired (I had been diagnosed with chronic fatigue in December 2010) but the cognitive behaviour therapy that I had had to undergo as the treatment for the chronic fatigue had helped me to manage things much more effectively.
A slow start
The first few races I did in 2012, I got dropped the first time, had a woman shout at me because she didn’t think I knew what I was doing (I did, I was just shattered), and all I could physically manage to do was ride in 9 events, three of which were men’s road races, with the rest being closed circuit races.
Racing at Salt Ayre in 2012
One of the problems, I came to realise, with losing 20% of my own bodyweight, was the loss in power and strength that came with it. We went to Majorca in September 2012, and we had to change the chainring to a 36 because I wasn’t strong enough to use the 39. The longest ride I could manage was about 60 miles, which was to and from Sa Calobra, not only because I wasn’t particularly fit, but also because of the remnants of the chronic fatigue. Looking back at it now, that holiday helped my recovery as it kick started my winter training block, and reminded me that I could actually ride a bike!
Development, development, development
One of the good things about being involved in cycling in years gone by is that it meant that turning up to races, you knew what you were talking about. However, I soon found that if it hadn’t happened on Facebook and Twitter, it hadn’t happened. At this point, I was only a third category rider, so if I suggested something to anybody else, I always got the response “what do you know?” which got on my nerves no end. So, I paid my entrance fee and qualified as a coach through the Association of British Cycling Coaches, as I couldn’t afford the pathway through British Cycling and there was no funding available for me as I live in a region where there’s a plethora of BC coaches.
By the end of 2012, we were getting a women’s road race league set up for 2013 as well as a development team for women in the North West, both of which are different stories, but it became obvious that the development pathway in women’s cycling was missing, and is something which we have hopefully started to build on now for the rest of the UK.
Coaching with Huw and Carley
National Series and National Championships
In 2013, I took part in a few National Series races, but it became increasingly obvious to me that there were limits to what I was physically capable of achieving. I was working over 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday, and with the additional work that I was doing trying to develop women’s cycling in the evenings (mainly articles, meetings and phone calls about the best way to improve the women’s scene with various people) and the odd bit of coaching and mentoring, it meant that I was doing probably around 60 hours a week, including my day job. I still struggled to do any mid week training and racing in the evenings was an absolute no-go, so I was basically stuck with a small amount of time, which meant that I couldn’t do enough quality training to keep up with the better riders.
In 2014, there seemed to be a change in start times too, which saw many of the events with a 9:30 am start time. One of the problems with epilepsy is that seizures occur as a result of triggers. One of my triggers is tiredness and I find it extremely difficult to get up early to go and ride my bike (not even racing) as it takes my brain longer to wake up than most. So it came to pass that I couldn’t afford to do all of the National Series events, for three reasons – I couldn’t afford it financially (I am self-funded and therefore it becomes expensive staying over before each event), I couldn’t afford the time off work (I only have a finite amount of holidays available) and I couldn’t afford it physically (in the event that the worst happened and I had a bad reaction to the early start), which is also a massive mental obstacle for me to get over.
But it isn’t only road race events that this affects – I can’t enter any time trials on Sundays because they all start too early, which also means that (on the whole), I can’t enter National Championship events either, or the RTTC Classic events.
(c) Ellen Isherwood
What training do I do?
My training is pretty limited, as I have to keep an eye on my energy levels. I don’t get home until six o’clock and I generally have admin to do with regards to the Racing Chance Foundation (from sorting the management accounts, to writing/updating the website, to trying to organise races), so mid week it’s generally limited to 40 minutes, three or four evenings a week. At the weekend, if I’m racing, I’ll generally do a two hour ride on the Saturday (if I’m racing on the Sunday) or a three hour ride on Sunday (if I’m racing on a Saturday). If I get to do more than 120 miles or 8 hours in a week, that’s a big week for me. During winter, I tend to aim for 150 miles a week, but again that’s based on the majority of my riding being at the weekend (usually about 7 hours a weekend).
Racing at Tameside 2015
Why do I race?
It has since become apparent that the chronic fatigue that I suffered from between 2006 and 2012 was a side effect of taking sodium valproate. After coming off that drug, I was like a different person, mentally and physically. That being said, that drug was 40 years old and we knew what the majority of the side effects were (which is why I don’t have any children of my own). The new drug only came into existence about 10 to 15 years ago, so it’s relatively new in the grand scheme of things. I don’t know what the long term side effects of this drug are, but I intend to remain as fit as possible in order to keep any horrible side effects at bay (one side effect of taking anti-convulsants is a tendency for depression) and, unfortunately, I don’t know what I’ll be able to do when I get older as I don’t know what the long term effects will be on my kidneys and liver.
But in the meantime, I intend to support, help and persuade as many women as possible to take up competitive cycling as it not only keeps you fit, it gives you the self confidence you need to be assertive in every day life, which is where the Racing Chance Foundation comes in.
Every time I get on a start line, it’s an achievement. I’m not bothered about points – I know that I’m never going to be a world beater because I don’t want to be, I just enjoy taking part. I do know that it keeps me fit – since 2011, my resting heart rate has dropped my around 30 bpm, which I choose to take as my heart showing me that it’s fitter. Unfortunately, I need something to keep me motivated and the racing fills that gap, even if a lot of the racing I do is actually training!
If you want to find out more about how to take the next steps in competitive cycling, visit the Racing Chance Foundation for some handy information and help make a difference to women’s cycling.
Once you have got a few circuit races under your belt, you might like to have a go at road racing, after all, it’s what many people believe that cycling is all about! However, there a few differences between road racing and circuit racing, so I thought it would be useful to explain them here.
The Open Road
Yes, that’s right, the majority of road racing in this country, whether you are male or female, is on the open road. That means that you are on the public highway and therefore have to abide by the rules of the road – for those of you who aren’t sure what I mean by this (and I have raced with a few (men and women) who don’t appear to be aware of this), it means that you stay on the left hand side of the road, because in the UK we drive on the left. With the races being on the open road, this means that you have to be aware of other road users, including cars and lorries that come in the opposite direction. If somebody goes on to the wrong side of the road into the path of an oncoming vehicle it can have horrific consequences, so you MUST be aware AT ALL TIMES that you have a duty to yourself and your fellow competitors to ride sensibly. Have a look at my Dance Space article about giving yourself room.
(c) Martin Holden Photography
Races are longer
This seems like I am stating the obvious but I will do anyway. The races are longer (generally between 30 and 60 miles for both men and women) which means that the pace tends to be a bit more consistent than in a circuit race, helped by the fact that you probably won’t be sprinting out of a corner every 10 seconds like you sometimes end up doing in a circuit race. Field sizes are generally larger as road races are more expensive to run and therefore need to have bigger fields, but that helps with the race distance as you get more shelter (in theory at least). As the races are longer, you also need to have more stamina and endurance than you would in a circuit race, and need to ensure that you carry food with you for eating during the race (see my Practice! Practice! Practice! article for advice in this respect). This can also mean that those riders who are great in circuit races may not be as good at longer road races and vice versa, so if you don’t think that the flat circuit races are for you, why not have a go at road racing?!
(c) Martin Holden Photography
There’s different terrain
One of the limiting factors of circuit races is that they tend to be pan flat (there are exceptions, especially where town centre circuit races are concerned) and usually finish in a bunch sprint, so it can become a bit demoralising if you aren’t keen on being a sprinter. However, road race circuits come in all manner of shapes and sizes, from shorter “kermesse” style races to longer circuits with a couple of climbs and descents in them. Don’t expect to be great at everything, but certainly try and have a go at different circuits to see what suits you best.
Start at the right level
The good news is that road races can be a lot easier for novices than circuit races, especially those road races that are aimed at 2/3/4 category women, due to the length of the race and there being less corners. The average speed for regional level races tends to be anywhere between 22 mph and 24 mph depending on the weather and the circuit and more often than not the pace eases up significantly, allowing you to have a bit of a breather.
Staying with the bunch is the key to success
This sounds really easy but it can be a bit of a nightmare when you are new to racing. Many people will happily let the other riders go up the road if the pace goes up a bit, never to see the bunch again, but the road race that you entered then becomes a time trial, and you don’t get the same enjoyment for spending 35 miles of a 40 mile race off the back of the bunch. Trust me, it may seem like really hard work at times when you are riding at a pace which you don’t feel comfortable with, however nine times out of ten the pace will ease off slightly and you get an opportunity to recover before the pace increases again. Road racing is supposed to be hard and difficult, where your legs and lungs are burning as you try to keep up with people who are slightly fitter and faster than you, but the feeling at the end is worth it!
Be true to yourself
By this, I mean “don’t let other riders bully you in to doing something that you don’t want to do”. There will be many occasions in races where more experienced riders will shout at you to do some work. You don’t have to do what they tell you to – it’s your entry fee and your race – but sometimes they might be saying it for good reason. Keep your common sense in tow and do what you think is right – if you’re about to blow up, don’t feel as if you have to do a turn on the front, sit in the wheels, get your breath back and you might be somewhere when it comes to the finish.
Road racing is fun, but it is hard work and is supposed to hurt your legs, so don’t give up as soon as they start hurting – battle through that pain for a couple of minutes at least (unless it is pain in relation to an injury when you should stop immediately) and you never know, you might surprise yourself!
Following on from my guides to racing that I first wrote back in 2013, I thought it would be useful to develop these a bit further. This guide is on circuit racing and what to expect, as it is this type of race that you will tend to do as a novice first, before venturing out on to the open road in road races.
These races tend (on the whole) to be run under British Cycling regulations. This means that you will have to have a racing licence to participate in the event, but you don’t need to have a licence in advance to race for circuit races (unless it is a National Series event, in which case you won’t be able to ride as a novice). However, you will be required to purchase a day licence for the event, so that you are covered by the requisite insurance. A day licence costs around £10 and will be in addition to your entry fee. You can find out more about the racing licence position here.
What is involved?
A circuit race can also be called a criterium. They are held usually on a circuit of 1 mile or less, with the newer circuits averaging around 1km in length. More often than not, the race distance will be described in terms of minutes rather than laps, with many races being a certain amount of time plus a number of laps. Generally, the commissaires will know how long a lap takes and will tell you in advance that they expect the race to be however many laps but they will put the lap board up with a certain number of laps to go (usually 10, although this depends on the length of the circuit).
Who can enter?
This tends to depend on the organiser. There are many events which are labelled as E/1/2/3/4 and will therefore be band 4 races (this doesn’t mean that Laura Trott or Dani King is going to turn up – they could, but it doesn’t happen very often), however if categories are dropped and the race only caters for lower categories (e.g. 2/3/4 or 3/4) the race will become a band 5, meaning that there are less licence points available for the top 10 finishers. There has also been a tendency in the past to hold women’s races alongside a fourth category men’s race. This can be a bit scary, for many reasons, so if you are looking at doing your first event, check to see whether it is a standalone women’s event or whether the women’s event will be on the track at the same time as the fourth category men’s event, as even though they are listed as separate events on the British Cycling events listing, they may have the same or similar start times, which will mean that you are racing at the same time as the men.
The nature of circuit races mean that they tend to start extremely quickly, and you therefore need to make sure that you warm up properly before the event. Most riders nowadays tend to take their rollers or turbo trainer to the race so that they can do some efforts before the race – the key to the warm up is that you need to get your heart rate up to where it will probably be in the race when you warm up, so you will usually need around 20 to 30 mins warm up, although this depends on the rider. You should be looking to finish your warm up around 10 minutes before you are due to start to give you time to get the final pieces ready, so make sure you have put your number on in advance of warming up. It also helps to warm up in a separate T-shirt to that which you are going to race in, so make sure you take a couple of T-shirts in your race bag with you.
Before you get on the start line
The riders will all line up on the start line, so if possible try and do a couple of laps of the circuit before the race is due to start. During these laps, look at the corners, see whether there are any damp patches or pot holes which you may want to avoid, and ride around any particularly tricky sections a couple of times before the race so that there are no hidden horrors which you might encounter. Check which way the wind is blowing – is it a head wind up the finishing straight or is it a tail wind or a cross wind, as this will give you an idea where riders will be likely to put an attack in (most are less likely to attack in a head wind because it’s too hard on their own).
The race itself
Remember that the more experienced riders will always go off hard and keep the pace high for a couple of laps. Keep calm during the first few laps, even though your head might be trying to tell you other things, as the pace always eases off after the first 5 to 10 minutes. Many riders will try and attack in these early laps as they test each other out, but most of these attacks won’t stay away as they’re more like feints – it’s like a game of poker as the more experienced riders see who’s up for a race and who isn’t.
Corners are either your friend or your enemy
Most riders don’t like cornering and will brake excessively. Most crashes tend to happen coming out of corners in circuit races, so give yourself room but don’t ease off too much. Make sure you change into an easier gear going into the corner as it’s easier to change pace on a lower gear and therefore easier to sprint out of the bend. Don’t make the mistake of staying in the same gear as it will just tire you out. Hold your line around a corner and don’t “divebomb” other riders (cut up the rider behind you). Become a rider who loves corners and you will do well.
You will get dropped
Every rider will get left behind by the first few riders (the term is to “get dropped”) in their first few races. No matter what you think as you prepare for your first race, 99% of riders struggle with the fluctuating pace and it is only a matter of time before the elastic eventually snaps and you get dropped. But don’t worry, it is all part of the learning curve, and the next time you come back you will have a better idea of what happens and what to expect.
Don’t give up
Bike racing can be an extremely demoralising experience but don’t worry, everybody goes through that learning curve. Make sure you set yourself targets (finish the race, finish in the bunch, finish in the top 10) and you will find that it can be an exciting experience!
The growth in women’s cycling over the last few years has been phenomenal however there is still no clear structure in place for women who want to start competing and progress up the ranks. No-one can deny that there is now more television coverage of women’s cycling thanks to events such as the Johnson’s Health Tech Grand Prix Series and now The Women’s Tour, but there is no clear pathway for women who aspire to compete in such events.
Heather Bamforth talks through bike set up with riders.
The Racing Chance Foundation is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation so it has to remain transparent. It has been registered as a charity with the Charity Commission (charity number 1156835) and has four trustees – Heather Bamforth, Alan Gornall, Colin Batchelor and Carley Brierley. The charity’s intention is to provide a performance pathway for female cyclists in the UK who currently fall outside the existing track-based national programmes. As such, the focus for the Foundation (for the time being at least) will be based on the road. Membership of the Racing Chance Foundation costs just £5 per year and gives cyclists exclusive access to races, events, a club shop, and a wealth of cycling knowledge & information.
The Foundation is currently developing sessions for all levels, from novice to elite, to help those riders who wish to develop their competitive cycling careers, with the first sessions planned for January 2015. The aim is to provide assistance to riders by offering sessions that they can attend which will help develop their skills as competitive cyclists. In addition, rather than providing grants to specific riders, one of the Foundation’s ultimate ambitions is to invite riders (at both a development and elite level) to compete in races as the Racing Chance Foundation, both in the UK and abroad, which will be funded by the Foundation.
We will be releasing details shortly regarding criteria for our elite and development squads. What we can say in advance is that there won’t be a minimum number of licence points as a requirement.
The Foundation is affiliated to British Cycling and Cycling Time Trials and club membership is available to anybody (male or female) over the age of 16 (with parent/guardian permission if under the age of 18). We don’t believe in solely trying to attract female membership; indeed the first races that we are organising in 2015 are two men’s events on the tough Bole Hill circuit in the Peak District.
As charity, the Racing Chance Foundation relies on donations to keep it going. They already have kit designed by Bioracer which is available to order, with profits going into the charity and, once established, RCF hope to be able to sell branded items in their online shop. If you feel that you may be able to assist with the Foundation by supplying branded items, please email: [email protected]
The Trustees would like to thank Andrew Middleton of Towns Needham LLP for his invaluable assistance in registering the Foundation with the Charity Commission and Anna Magrath of Cycling Shorts for her assistance with the design and maintenace of the Foundation’s website and media management.
Results from day four of competition at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester where Jess Varnish’s perfect week continued as she and Dannielle Khan successfully defended their team sprint title, Laura Trott took victory in the women’s scratch, Callum Skinner made it three titles in three days with his keirin win and Mark Stewart won the points race title. Lewis Oliva also took a dramatic tumble in the semi final of the Men’s Sprint against Matt Crampton, Matt did amazingly well to stay upright.
British Cycling Sprint Championships presented by FIAT – Men
Gold: Callum Skinner (The Rigmar Racers)
Silver: Matthew Crampton
Bronze: Philip Hindes (Sprint-Team)
Women’s Team Sprint
Gold: West Midlands (Dannielle Khan and Jessica Varnish) 33.969
Silver: North West A (Katy Marchant and Victoria Williamson) 34.142
Bronze: North West B (Rachel James and Helen Scott) 34.998
Gold: Laura Trott (Wiggle Honda)
Silver: Emily Kay (Team USN)
Bronze: Danielle King (Wiggle Honda)
Gold: Mark Stewart (Spokes RT)
Silver: Mark Christian (Team Raleigh-GAC)
Bronze: Jonathan Mould (NFTO Pro Cycling)
The championships conclude on Sunday 28 September. Tickets are available on the door at the National Cycling Centre. Competition starts at 10:30am with the women’s keirin, men’s team sprint, women’s points race and men’s scratch race titles being decided.
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