2014’s Road Race title offered little in shocks when it came to the crucial selections of the day. A breakaway comprising four of the black and blue men (Edmondson, Rowe, Kennaugh and Swift) were the majority members alongside Orica’s Yates twins and an effervescent Mark Christian of Raleigh. The group made it to the Abergavenny circuits intact before the final laps were left to be contested between Ben Swift and Peter Kennaugh after a stinging attack by Simon Yates broke his namesake and Christian; but in turn left himself bereft of the energy to follow Swifty and Kennaugh when it mattered later on.
With only a moderately undulating course forming the town circuit; it seemed to be playing into the hands of Ben Swift to take it via a sprint, as Kennaugh repeatedly failed to drop his man. Swift’s recent podium at Milan-San Remo certainly hinted towards a man strong enough to hold the wheel, yet smart enough to retain the stinging pace in reserve to take the win from his track-come-mountain goat team mate. Kennaugh proved however that experience counts for a lot more than perceived ‘horses for courses’ of Swifty; who succumbed to the more wily knowledge of Kennaugh as he turned 2009’s defeat here into victory for 2014. Nipping out from behind Swift late on to glide across the line first with the British bands calling him, Kennaugh put in a glorious display of grit and skill to claim his first senior National title.
The most ‘against-the-odds’ performances of the day earned themselves a Hitter’s badge of honour.
Mark Christian – Like recent years at the Nationals, it seemed unlikely to see a domestic rider involved with the crucial move of the day. Whether this is seen as a gulf in talent or the asphyxiation of racing by Team Sky, it was still inspiring to see Mark Christian pushing the seven man break through Monmouthshire with zero intention of riding the wheels. Sadly his inspiring performance burnt out in the final laps of Abergavenny, but it is worth noting that Adam Yates was dropped alongside him in the same attack by his brother. Mark was the standard bearer for an often undervalued British domestic scene, doing his fellow riders and fans a great honour of representing them during the day.
Luke Rowe – Abergavenny was screaming all day for a Welsh winner to be crowned on home soil; but the perfect ending was never to be. Rowe was possibly the most antagonistic rider of the day, being involved early on with speculative breaks seemed damaging to his day’s prospects at the time. He was not just a member of the seven man winning break but a key animator who tested the will of his fellow Sky riders and friends repeatedly.
Dante Carpenter & Dan Pearson – The reserve list’s existence is to make up the numbers when other rider’s hopes are dashed before they even had the chance to clip in. Thankfully the Zappi’s team shone a more positive light upon the opportunity gifted to them. Dante and Dan earned a call up, and in turn the stage, to showcase what they have learnt on the continent under the guidance of Flavio Zappi. Not only did they both podium in the U23 race (Dante Silver & Dan Bronze), they also split from Kristian House late on to finish ahead of the ex-national champion; proving Zappi holds a heady mix of talent and hard work amongst his ranks.
Geraint Thomas – Once the riders had descended upon Abergavenny, the spectators had to endure tugged heart strings with each passing, as locals and fans alike witnessed Thomas’ attempts to bridge the gap to the leading seven. Unlucky to be absent from the winning breakaway due to a gear issue during the ascent of Celtic Manor; Thomas displayed immense passion to claw the gap back. Dropping behind to the peloton when inviting Alex Dowsett and David Millar aboard his escapades, he was not disheartened when he was told they were not ‘up for it’ and so gave pursuit regardless. Holding an average gap around fifty seconds against seven, mostly WorldTour riders, was a fine reflection of the form he is producing in the prime years of his road career.