National Cycling Championships: Pete Kennaugh wins duel with Mark Cavendish as Lizzie Armitstead bounces back

In the men's race, Cavendish looked to be the strongest rider

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The Independent Online

A blazing solo attack at Britain’s National Championships in Lincoln on Sunday saw Lizzie Armitstead put memories of a spectacular crash in the recent Women’s Tour of Britain firmly behind her with her third national road-race title in five years. Meanwhile, defending men’s champion Pete Kennaugh repeated last year’s victory after a dramatic duel with Mark Cavendish.

Armitstead blasted away on the penultimate ascent of the 300-metre cobbled Michaelgate climb on the finishing circuit, with the Boels  Dolmans rider quickly shedding the defending champion Laura Trott to win by a minute. Trott took second, with up-and-coming rider Alice Barnes in third.

Following Armitstead’s exit from the first day of the Women’s Tour two weeks ago – she crashed into photographers after winning the opening stage in Aldeburgh and was taken by ambulance to hospital – she recognised that victory in the Nationals was always going to be a difficult challenge against riders with sharper form.

“It was important to show well after the crash, and I didn’t feel too good at the start, but the longer the race went on the better I felt,” the 2012 Olympic road-race silver medallist said. “I tested the legs a few times and I knew if I really wanted to that I could drop them.”

In the men’s race, Cavendish looked to be the strongest rider – and clearly in stunning form for the forthcoming Tour de France. But Team Sky’s collective good form and superiority in numbers made it well nigh impossible for the Etixx-Quick Step rider to wrench victory out of their grasp.

Despite riding with no other team-mates, Cavendish was able to bridge across to leading Sky duo Ian Stannard and Kennaugh, albeit with Sky’s Luke Rowe shadowing his counter-attack. However,  he found himself in the unenviable position of facing three riders from the same team at the end.

Cavendish chased down one attack by Stannard but, with an uphill finish that did him no favours, was almost obliged to go on the offensive himself, followed only by  Kennaugh.

The two Isle of Man riders, respectively the 2013 and 2014 national champions, subsequently fought out a prolonged uphill duel on Michaelgate. Kennaugh eventually left Cavendish trailing with around 300 metres go.

“That has to be one of the hardest races of my career,” Kennaugh said. “I never thought I’d get it until the last right turn when I saw he [Cavendish] wasn’t on my wheel.”

Cavendish admitted: “I just cracked the last time up Michaelgate, I’d been  riding all day on my own, but I’m super happy with that and with my form.”

On the downside, Cavendish said he had two glancing collisions with fans’ cameras on the climb, striking both his shoulders – the one he hurt badly when he crashed out on day one of last year’s Tour de France and, somewhat harder, the left one, too. He nonetheless predicted that, assuming he recovers well from the Nationals this week, he would be “flying for the Tour”.

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