It was an extremely aggressive national championship road race and one that got the winner it deserved.
Rob Hayles did his chances of a call-up for the Olympic Games track squad no harm at all as he attacked on the descent, just as he did when he won the Beaumont Trophy earlier in the month.
You can take the pursuiter off the track, but you can?t take the pursuiter out of the man. Hayles even wore a skinsuit with a pocket stitched into the back.
The race was aggressive from the off but it wasn?t until a powerful break formed. In it were Hayles and his Halfords Bikehut team-mate Tom Southam, Matt Stephens (Sigma Sport), David Cook (Altura), Ian Wilkinson (SIS-Trek), Kieran Page (Pezula), Dan Lloyd (An Post), Thomas Swift-Metcalfe (Palmeiras), Peter Kennaugh and Jonny McEvoy (Team 100% ME), Ben Greenwood and Dean Downing (Rapha-Condor-Recycling), Ali Carr (Team Remy Meder) and James Sharp (York Cycleworks).
The lead grew to almost four minutes at one point before David Millar, Ian Stannard and Mark Cavendish started working on the front. Millar, in particular, put in an almighty turn, a graceful time triallist?s effort, that hacked away great chunks of the break?s lead.
On the final lap, the lead group was slashed down to five: Southam, Hayles, Lloyd, Kennaugh and Downing. Then Southam paid the price for spending all but the first lap of the first circuit off the front.
The final battle came down to a fight between youth and experience: Kennaugh and Hayles. As the Isle of Man rider ? still the reigning national junior champion, it?s easy to forget ? could testify, Hayles? track craft proved the difference as he cut the corners as tight as possible to keep Kennaugh at bay.
So, how did the men Cycling Weekly rated last week fare?
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David Millar 25th
Was flying most of the day. Was well-marked and any attempts to get across to the break were always going to be shut down. Instead, he decided to wind up the pace in the bunch and for two or so laps of the second circuit he was hammering it. His position on a bike when he rides like that is flawless, and his effort cut two-thirds of the break?s advantage and split the bunch in two. Impressive riding.
Mark Cavendish 5th
Started the day saying he wasn?t sure the drag up to the finish would suit his sprint but the way he started the race it was obvious he was feeling good. Romped up the first couple of climbs at the front of the bunch, spent the middle part of the race agitating for something to get going. Clipped off at the end and pipped Downing to fifth place.
Russell Downing 6th
Pinarello had been well-placed early on but when the big move of the race went, they were not in it. They spent a lot of time chasing without making much headway. Downing tried to get across a couple of times but was never joined with the right combination of riders to succeed.
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Dan Lloyd 4th
Looked super smooth and very strong in the break. Perhaps contributed a bit too much and left himself with too little for the final push at the very end. Fourth place was a good result and will put him bang in the frame for a place in road race team for Beijing.
Jeremy Hunt 27th
Said after the race that his intention had been to sit tight, gambling that it would come together on the last lap and he could make his move then. It didn?t work. However, Hunt is in good form, and his exclusion from the Crédit Agricole Tour de France team is harsh.
Roger Hammond 26th
Another who tried to get a counter move going as the race reached the second circuit, only to find it impossible to move.
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Matt Stephens finished in the bunch
Like Lloyd, he did a lot of work in the break. Caught on the hop when Kennaugh put in an attack with a lap and a half to go. Deserved a better result for his efforts.
Ben Swift 31st
Was outshined by his Team 100% ME team-mates Kennaugh (second), Andy Tennant (seventh), Jonny McEvoy ? who spent much of the day in the break ? and Jonny Bellis (10th). Looking to do a good ride in the European Championship road race in Italy this coming weekend.
Rob Hayles 1st
After the Beaumont Trophy, Hayles suddenly showed himself to be among the favourites for the national title
Hamish Haynes 24th
Had a quiet day, hoping for it to come together again towards the end.
Ian Stannard finished in the bunch
Joined Millar on the front of the bunch for a lap or so as the break?s advantage tumbled.
Peter Kennaugh 2nd
A brilliant ride from the first-year senior. Apart from Hayles, Kennaugh was the star of the race, particularly following last week?s second place in the Grand Prix of Wales. A gifted track rider, now the under-23 road champion ? and remains reigning junior road champion until the 2008 race in August ? Kennaugh has a very bright future ahead of him.
Tom Southam finished in the bunch
Considering the sparse resources the Halfords Bikehut boys have on the road, the pair have forged a real double act. Southam rode himself into the ground and even made the final five-man split before blowing. He?d more than played his role in Hayles? win by then, though.
Simon Richardson 28th
Coming to the end of a long tour of duty, having raced non-stop since the Eddie Soens. Said he was surprised by the effect the extra distance had. Plowman Craven missed the move and made successive attempts to rectify things, to no avail. Richardson will have learned another valuable lesson though.
Kieran Page finished in the bunch
Made the break, but was among those dropped when Hayles, Kennaugh and Downing started to jump.
Dean Downing 3rd
Rated as only a one-star chance because of the back trouble he?d suffered at the GP of Wales. Three trips to the chiropractor straightened him out and Downing made the important break. May regret attacking too far out instead of sitting tight and waiting until closer to home.
Evan Oliphant 15th
Plowman Craven?s best finisher.
Robin Sharman 13th
With Matt Stephens in the break, the Sigma rider sat tight. Finished a decent 13th.
Jonny Bellis 10th
Team 100% ME had a great day, with Kennaugh and McEvoy in the break. Then Tennant and Bellis go and make the top ten too, meaning a clean sweep of the under-23 podium.
Dan Fleeman 8th
Wanted to make the break but with An Post team-mate Dan Lloyd already up there couldn?t do anything to aid the chase. Instead stayed alert in the bunch and made the top ten for himself.
Kristian House 36th
Tried to get across to the group to offer reinforcement to Downing and Greenwood but the bunch reeled them in.
Our season-long competition that pits the two brothers, Dean and Russell Downing, against each other just got interesting.
All season Russell has been had his brother in a head-lock but Dean broke free on Sunday and won a medal.
That, surely, has to be worth a point. Battle resumes at the Tour of Blackpool at the weekend.
With four rounds to go, plus the Tour of Britain still to come, the latest score is: Russell 6, Dean 3
The competition to determine which British team is best has been all Pinarello-shaped traffic so far this season.
But Halfords Bikehut have leapt into contention thanks to two wins in quick succession from Rob Hayles.
And Team 100% ME are in the mix too, after Peter Kennaugh?s second place at the GP of Wales and the National Championships.
We should point out that the team?s jerseys bear the logo of Cycling Weekly campaign I Support Drug Free Sport too.
1. Pinarello 76pts
2. Rapha-Condor-Recycling 35pts
3. Halfords Bikehut 33pts
4. Team 100% ME 14pts
5. Plowman Craven 11pts
Hayles wins National Championship