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British Road Champs ’09: PEZ On The Scene
Despite the presence of stars like David Millar and Bradley Wiggins (Garmin) and Mark Cavendish (Columbia) it was British home pro stalwart, Kristian House (Rapha Condor) who was smartest and strongest after a sun drenched 100 miles around the Welsh – turned Belgian for the day – town of Abergavenny.

Cervelo’s Dan Lloyd took another silver medal to go with the one he grabbed behind David Millar in 2007 whilst fast rising star, Peter Kennaugh (100% ME, the British Cycling Under 23 squad) – recently returned from a stellar Baby Giro – took the bronze. In fourth, and last place out the quartet, which dominated the finale was the man whose red Barloworld jersey set the race on fire, and for long periods looked to have it won – Chris Froome.

Probably the largest and best quality field ever assembled for a British Championship rolled out of an ‘en fete’ Abergavenny, on schedule at 10:00 am with an impressive armada of police motor bikes enforcing a tight rolling road closure; typical of Gary Baker and Co’s excellent organisation.

PEZ was off at 04:30 for the long drive from Edinburgh to Wales; just missing the start, but catching the race after a mile or two. Scotland’s Endura racing had already fired a man up the road; but not for long with the race averaging 32 mph for the first 45 minutes.

We picked up our race credentials at the start just as race commentator and former pursuit king, Hugh Porter told the crowd; “the big guns from the European scene really want that national champion’s jersey, to show it off in the Tour de France. There’s a group of 13, one minute up the road; including Bellis, Hammond, Hunt, and Wiggins.”

Hugh Porter.

Our second sight of the race was on the day’s big climb, The Tumble or Iron Mountain.

Martin gets the bottles ready.

First job of the day was to get the bottles ready for Hamish Haynes (Yawadoo) and Evan Oliphant (Endura).

It was a ‘plane crash’ on the twisting, tree lined slopes as Wiggins and Froome drove hard at the front.

David Millar looked relaxed and maybe ready to launch the counter attack.

But reigning champion, Rob Hayles chances of defending ended right there.

Hamish was fighting to stay in contention – a battle he’d wage to the finish line with a fine display of never say die riding.

After The Tumble, there were ten laps of a very continental Abergavenny, where fans lined the barriered High Street and the cafes and bars spilled out on to the pavements.

Laps one and two saw Wiggins and Froome around one minute to the good of a group which included Oliphant – not wearing his poker face, more as is someone was battering him with a poker.

Evan Oliphant suffered greatly, but managed a great 7th place on the day.

David Millar was in a group a further minute back, with the likes of Lloyd’s Cervelo team mate, Jez Hunt; with Haynes another minute back.

The third and fourth laps saw Wiggins continue to drag Froome round as behind, the groups merged and split again. If Froome had been soft pedalling for the first four laps, on lap five he reminded his Bianchi that it was in a race; jumping clear of the chase group and leaving Wiggins to his fate – an eventual DNF with one lap to go.

Wiggins and Froome…still away.

Lap six and still the man from Kenya was blasting away; “come on boys” said Peter Kennaugh to fellow chasers, House, Lloyd and Ian Stannard (ISD) as they dallied through the feed.

“It’s all over,” said a spectator as the gap yawned behind the five men at the head of affairs. Behind, Hamish Haynes was mindful that he had a ferry fare from Belgium to cover and fought hard to move up through the groups.

Hamish working hard to get in the money. He finished a solid 11th on the day.

Pre-race favourite, Russell Downing and his Pinarello-Candi TV team mates were finding that one hour televised criteriums aren’t the best preparation for a four hour death race.

Mark Cavendish just keeps getting stronger and stronger. A death race like this was previously not the territory of Cav. He finished in 5th place.

House’s Rapha team mate, Matt Cronshaw had succumbed to the savage pace and a head cold but was still working for the team – handing up bottles.

Stannard was struggling on the long drag each lap up to the feeding station and was gone on lap seven, sliding back to the chase groups.

Ian Stannard rode hard, and winced to 13th.

The red kite was at the bottom of a steep descent, making for a very fast run in to the finale through the narrow, streets of Abergavenny to the slightly down hill last 200 metres.

Dan Fleeman’s first race since his wrist operation was finished; as he watched teammate and name sake Big Dan Lloyd power down the hill on lap eight with House, Kennaugh, and Froome tucked in behind him – the man from Africa, temporarily tamed.

Dan Fleeman is happy to be back racing.

It was over, as far as medals went, for everyone else. PEZ’s money had transferred from Garmin to Cervelo.

Lloyd, House, and Kennaugh did a lot of chasing of Chris Froome on Sunday.

Lap nine and the amazing Froome was again; “displaying incredible aggression” as Hugh Porter put it, 14 seconds clear. Cinelli’s Matt Green looked good in his black and white chequers; but he was spectating – two punctures saw to that.

Cinelli’s Matt Green.

As the bell clanged, Froome threw himself into the right hander past the finish line like the maddest Belgian kermesse rider. The gap was 20 seconds and it looked like enough.

But as the crowd craned their necks and the photographers aired those big lenses, it was the man in black, House, whose arms went high from ‘Big Dan’ and Kennaugh; no medal for Froome – but an awful lot of hearts won.

PEZ grabbed the Fab Four after the finish:

Chris: To be honest, I don’t think my form’s that great but I came off the Giro into the Elektra and Zeeland Tours and I’ve just got so much intense racing in my legs. It would have been nice to get the jersey – a real bonus to take to whichever team I end up in next year.

Chris Froome gets a wipedown post-race.

Peter: I struggled until the finishing circuits; I was nowhere near my best on The Tumble. I had a bit of a break after the Baby Giro, just living like a normal guy for a week, doing what I fancied, just riding my bike when I felt like it. When we reached the circuits I had a look at other rider’s faces and could see that there was a lot of suffering going on. There were a lot of attacks going off and I tried to pick a good break, with strong riders, but not Cav – he was always going to be marked out of it. At the end I felt strong, so I led out with Kristian on my wheel but my legs buckled on the last little downhill and he passed me; my head went down after that and Dan passed me too coming on to line.”

Peter Kennaugh put in a great ride to finish 3rd.

Dan: I felt my only chance of winning was getting away on the corners, I seemed to have an advantage there – I was getting the gaps. I wasn’t at my strongest, I wasn’t on a fantastic day. In the break I wasn’t sure what was happening behind – I thought that if Roger Hammond came up, then he could counter attack and I could cover. When Froome went, no one reacted, I felt I was the weakest and didn’t want to start the chase. I think Pete was confident at the end, but maybe nervous, that’s why he went early – he’s very young but was probably the quickest of the four of us.

Dan Lloyd was strong, 2nd was his reward.

Kristian: When the five of us were away (including Ian Stannard), I was still riding for Chris Newton and Tom Southam; I didn’t know what was happening behind – I heard that the gap was one minute, then three minutes. Because of that, I was riding to conserve energy so as I would have the legs to help. With five to go, I thought; “this is it!” I was cramping the last four laps, but I was lucky because there were no attacks coming when I was getting the cramps.

A happy Rapha Condor squad relishes the win.

Froome was very good, but if he’s waited and waited then maybe he could have got the gap and stayed away – but I’ve raced against him before and that’s not his style. The last time he went and it was up to 40 seconds, I thought that it was over but we rode together and got him back. I could see that Froome and Dan were toiling; John (Herety, manager) wanted me to go at one kilometre but I decided to wait, I knew that Kennaugh is young and fast; but I gambled – and won!

Kristian House.

1 Kristian House (Rapha Condor)
2 Daniel Lloyd (Cervйlo TestTeam)
3 Peter Kennaugh (100% ME)
4 Chris Froome (Barloworld)
5 Roger Hammond (Cervйlo TestTeam)
6 Mark Cavendish (Columbia)
7 Evan Oliphant (Endura)
8 Ian Wilkinson (Halfords Bikehut)
9 Russell Downing (CandiTV/Marshalls Pasta)
10 Jeremy Hunt (Cervйlo TestTeam)
11 Hamish Haynes, Team Yawadoo
12 Andrew Fenn (100% ME)
13 Ian Stannard (ISD)
14 Andy Tennant (Halfords Bikehut)
15 Mark McNally (Halfords)


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