Stars in stripes: How Kennaugh, Diegnan, Swift et al raced to national road race success

The roads, climbs and coastline around Norwich play host to the cream of the country’s cyclists today as the British National Road Race rolls into Norfolk.

The start lists for both road races feature plenty of World Tour and Women’s World Tour competition but, as we’ve seen in the past, it’s not always the biggest name rider who becomes the national road race champs.

With that in mind, here’s how the last five years have panned out in both the men’s and the women’s road race.

2014 – Abergavenny

Men’s Champion: Pete Kennaugh (Team Sky) / Women’s Champion: Laura Trott (Wiggle Honda)

As expected, the heavy, hilly Welsh roads made for a tough race, with both races being ones of attrition.

The women’s race looked to have been decided with 5km to go, with Lizzie Armistead 10 seconds up on a powerful chase group of seven.

However, the Wiggle-Honda pair Trott and Dani King pulled the chasers across to the lone leader in the final lap, and the sprint was set.

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Trott was able to out-kick Armistead with the help of a lead-out from her teammate King, who took second in the process.

In the men’s race, Team Sky were active from the outset, with the nation’s leading team posting Luke Rowe, Alex Edmondson, Pete Kennaugh and Ben Swift into the break, along with the Yates twins, and two continental riders.

The race was a test of strength, and the breakaway slowly whittled down to the point where only Kennaugh, Swift and Simon Yates remained.

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When Yates was dropped, Kennaugh made several attacks but was unable to get rid of Rowe, only managing to pip him by the smallest of margins in the closing sprint.

2015 – Lincoln

Men’s Champion: Pete Kennaugh (Team Sky) / Women’s Champion: Lizzie Armistead (Boels-Dolmans)

The course took in several of the roads used for the infamous Lincoln GP, including a closing circuit that featured the cobbled climb of Michaelgate, and this iconic stretch proved decisive in both races.

In the women’s, Lizzie Armistead launched a stunning solo move on the fourth lap of the five closing circuits of the town to take the medal she was denied the previous year.

She had been in a breakaway group of ten that lost momentum and was swallowed by the peloton in the closing stages of the race.

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Undeterred, Armistead attacked on the Michaelgate climb and continued to build a gap through the final lap.

Alice Barnes held off a late challenge from 2014 champ Laura Trott to take second place.

The men’s race was aggressive from the outset, where crosswinds ripped the peloton to pieces early on, allowing reigning champ Pete Kennaugh and his teammate Ian Stannard to escape.

The pair held out until Luke Rowe and Mark Cavendish managed to bridge across on the penultimate lap.

Stannard and Rowe didn’t last long before being dropped. It was on the most iconic feature of the last lap, the Michaelgate, where Kennaugh made his move and pulled away from the Manxman, who was left to finish in second.

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With the win, Kennaugh became the first British male to take consecutive titles since Roger Hammond in 2003 and 2004.

2016 – Stockton

Men’s Champion: Adam Blythe (Tinkoff-Saxo) / Women’s Champion: Hannah Barnes (Drops)

The course was a test of strength and skill, mixing punchy climbs and a fast, technical closing circuit of Stockton.

Adam Blythe beat Mark Cavendish in a sprint to take one of his biggest results to date, leaving the Manxman taking second for a consecutive year.

Blythe had been a part of a four-man break that was caught with two laps remaining, with Cavendish a key factor in dragging the race back together.

The 14 leaders came into the final straight together, and pre-race favourite Cavendish showed his confidence by opening the sprint.

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However, Blythe stuck to his wheel and came around him on the final uphill drag to the line.

Hannah Barnes pipped her sister Alice in a sprint finish in the women’s race.

The sisters were part of 13-rider leading group that formed midway through the race.

Not wanting to risk a bunch sprint, Hannah attacked from this group on the penultimate closing circuit of Stockton, but her effort was quickly neutralised. 

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The leaders came back together and held a gap of under 30 seconds over the peloton on the final lap.

It was Alice who sparked the sprint on the home straight, though her younger sister came around her at the last gasp.

2017 – Isle of Man

Men’s Champion: Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) / Women’s Champion: Lizzie Deignan (Boels-Dolmans)

2017 was the first time in over 20 years that the race would take place on the Isle of Man, and the course featured several short sharp hills that made a bunch sprint seem unlikely.

Lizzie Deignan took her fourth national women’s title from a group of four, after chasing to make contact with the leaders much of the race.

A lead group of three had formed midway through the race, while a strong group of seven that included Deignan chased.

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When the lead trio started attacking each other in the penultimate lap, Deignan, Alice Barnes and Katie Archibald were able to make the catch with 2km to go.

Deignan attacked straight over the top, with none able to follow, leaving Archibald to win the sprint for second.

In the men’s road race, breakaway expert Cummings took solo victory in the road race, having also won the time trial earlier in the week.

After a large breakaway that went away early in the day was brought back, flurries of attacks came through the remainder of the race, with Pete Kennaugh, Ian Stannard, and Chris Lawless all active.

The race came down to a group of five that included Cummings in the closing three laps.

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The victor made his move in the final lap and held off the chase of Lawless and Ian Bibby, who took seconds and third respectively, 40 seconds back.

2018 – Northumberland

Men’s Champion: Connor Swift (Madison-Genesis) / Women’s Champion: Jess Roberts (Team Breeze)

The race took place on a largely flat route in the North-East of England that boded well for the sprinters. However, in both races, it was brave breakaway efforts that took the spoils.

After an aggressive day’s racing, the women’s race came down to a select group of leaders.

Jess Roberts attacked from the group with 15km to go, with Mel Lowther in tow. Lowther tried her luck with 3km to go but was brought back and dropped in the final kilometre by Roberts.

The 19-year-old was able to hold off the last-ditch chase from the peloton, which saw Dani Rowe take the sprint for second.

Conor Swift became the first Continental team rider to take the men’s title since Kristian House in 2009.

He made the early break along with a number of WorldTour riders early on in the race and had the confidence to attack from the break with 15km remaining.

With the peloton over five minutes back, and perhaps not fancying his chances in a sprint against fast men like breakaway companions Adam Blythe, Owain Doull, and Ben Swift, the Madison-Genesis man rolled the dice, and it paid off.

Only the 2016 champion Blythe launched a concerted effort at a chase but was unable to peg back the flying 22-year-old, finishing second.

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