Tomorrow while the bulk of the nation will be focussed on a sporting event in South Africa, the cycling fraternity will have more than half an eye out for an event taking place closer to home, the National Road Race Championship in Pendle.
This year's course is a tough one, a 7.5 mile circuite with 250m of climbing per lap including a mile long climb, followed by another half miler, and numerous lumps and bumps along the way. The predicted 24°C temperatures will make things tougher still with many, including former winner Rob Hayles predicting that only a handful of the 130 named starters will stay the course.
So, who should we be looking out for? There's a big Sky contingent for a start including Bradley Wiggins whose name is on the start sheet, doubts persist as to whether he will ride just six days before his assault on the Tour de France. According to the Team Sky website "Every European squad member will take part in his own country" but if Wiggins does ride it will be more as a leg loosener for the rigours ahead. Instead expect an assault from the likes of Peter Kennaugh or Chris Froome both of whom figured in the final mix last year, Kennaugh losing out to Kristian House in the final sprint. Logic would suggest that of the two the course might favour Chris Froome given the amount of climbing involved and let's not forget those other Sky riders on the start sheet, Russ Downing, Geraint Thomas, Ben Swift and Steve Cummins any one of whom could be a contender with all those experienced bodies to back them up.
Cervelo might not have the numbers that Sky or the homegrown teams can boast, but their trio of Roger Hammond, Jeremy Hunt and Dan Lloyd have a formidable blend of the sort of toughness and experience that this course may demand. Both Hammond and Hunt know what it takes to win a British title and Lloyd made the podium last year and was unlucky to miss out on the win.
Two of the biggest names in the race, Mark Cavendish, and David Millar, will be riding on their own, that and the climbing plus the after effects of his crash in Switzerland is likely to do for the Manxman's chances (watch me eat humble pie tomorrow), but Millar is unlikely to be handicapped. Again, he has the experience and toughness that this course may require and he is used to winning on his own.
As Kristian House showed last year and numerous others have done before him, the big ProTour riders don't always have things their own way and House and his Rapha Condor team mates will be doing their damndest to hang on to the title a point House was quick to make when talking to road.cc's Simon MacMichael recently. If he can't win he wants to keep that jersey in the team.
Nor are Rapha Condor Sharp the only domestic outfit capable of a strong showing, Endura, Motorpoint Marshalls Pasta, and Sigma Sport Specialized all have strong lineups and riders like Simon Richardson, for Sigma, former winer Matt Stephens also lends experience, as will Rob Hayles to Endura and the daddy of them all, Malcolm Elliott for Motorpoint Marshalls Pasta… now if he won even the footy fans might sit up and take notice.
Tomorrow's race will be broadcast live on British Eurosport 2. British Eurosport is available on Sky channel 410 and Virgin Media channel 521. British Eurosport 2 is available on Sky channel 411 and Virgin Media channel 525. To watch the men’s race online go to www.eurosportplayer.co.uk.
For detailed information on the race, and route check out the British Cycling website
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.