Mark Cavendish will wear the British champion’s bands for the second time in his illustrious career after outsprinting Samuel Watson and Alexandar Richardson at the national road race championships in Castle Douglas, capping off what was a relentlessly attacking display from the Manx Missile.
Ineos Grenadiers duo Ethan Hayter and Ben Turner both tried to solo away during what was a frenetic, uncontrollable and constantly evolving race, but it was Cavendish – on the front foot from the race’s opening kilometres – who was alert to every move, the Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl rider arguably putting in one of the most complete all-round rides of his career.
And when Richardson attacked (following an unfortunate crash for Matthew Bostock), only the former world champion and Watson could follow, with Cavendish too strong and too fast at the line for his breakaway companions.
Displaying the same attacking panache he exhibited on the way to his previous victory at the British championships in 2013, Cavendish proved – as if it needed proving at this stage – that he isn’t simply a one-trick pony, with an effervescent performance that saw him off the front early in a six-man breakaway that included bronze medallist Richardson, Bostock, Hayter, Jack Crook, Joe Holt and Ross Lamb.
After that move was brought back, the 37-year-old – who says he is yet to learn whether he will take to start line of this year’s Tour de France in Copenhagen on Friday – barely missed a beat, constantly driving groups on before finally unleashing that famous sprint to see off the hugely impressive Watson and Richardson.
“I know that I’ve come good out of the Giro, and I’m going so much better than last year. And you know what happened last year, I won four stages of the Tour de France and the green jersey,” Cavendish said at the finish.
“So if I’m not going to go to the Tour de France I might as well use it today. I want to at least show that the reason I’m not going to the Tour is not because I’ve got bad form,” he laughed.
“I love the nationals, it’s a racing race, especially around this course. You’ve just got to put yourself in the race, which is what I like.
“Quite often I sit and have to sprint, but I enjoy racing. It’s why I started.
“We’ve got a lot of good classics-style riders in Great Britain now, and a race like that with these guys is pretty special.”
While Cavendish says he hasn’t heard from Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl whether he will be racing the Tour or not, he insists that he is in good enough form to race – and win – in France.
“Can you imagine winning your 35th Tour de France stage in the British champion’s jersey? It would be pretty beautiful, the photos would be there forever,” he said, with something of a resigned smile.
In the women’s race, which took place in horrific Scottish weather earlier in the day, 19-year-old Le Col-Wahoo rider Alice Towers soloed away from a strong leading group with 30 kilometres to go to take her first ever pro victory and with it the British champion’s jersey.
Despite a number of surging efforts from DSM rider and defending champion Pfeiffer Georgi, the chase behind lacked the cohesion necessary to eat into Towers’ gap, allowing the Yorkshire woman to savour her victory in the Dumfries rain.
Georgi took the sprint for second, while Jumbo-Visma’s Anna Henderson rounded off the podium.
“I can’t really believe that it happened, I didn’t think that I could win or that the race would go that way,” Towers said at the finish.
“It’s actually the first time I’ve ever won a road race, so to win the national championships is pretty special.
“I really didn’t plan [my attack], I mean it probably was the best thing to do at the time with the conditions, to be out front was definitely better than it was in the bunch,” she said, referencing the windy conditions and slick roads that characterised the race.
“I didn’t really think it was possible and the time kept going out and the kilometres kept coming down, and all I could do was just keep plugging at it.”
Images: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.