With the bells of beautiful Ampleforth Abbey peeling in celebration, Sky made it a hat trick of Elite British National Road Race Championships; strong man Ian Stannard following on from Geraint Thomas in 2010 and Bradley Wiggins in 2011.
Team mate Alex Dowsett made it a Sky one-two, with Raleigh’s Russell Hampton taking a well deserved bronze after matching the two Sky riders blow for blow until the last lap of the technical finishing circuit in beautiful North Yorkshire.
Stannard’s win was achieved in the grand manner – right there at the start of the five man break; driving it hard; then, when two of his companions cracked he took longer spells; and when it looked like the move might be brought back, he turned up the watts to put more than nearly eight minutes into what was left of the bunch by the end.
When we asked him at the finish what the Sky tactic for the day was, he replied; ‘keep the title in the team, simple, eh?’
Big loser on the day was Endura; they missed the break, chased hard, brought the gap down but couldn’t hold the rampant Stannard when he pressed harder on the pedals.
Last year we brought six spectators down for the National Road Race Championship – but this year it was just four; Callum and Dave joining us for the gig.
That’s down to the disbandment of the Dan Fleeman fan club, Scotland chapter – since our boy turned to the MTB it’s just not the same.
We caught sight of the break in the ladies race – Emma Pooley on the front, three on her wheel.
One girl was in between, then a yawning gap back to a small group and a dawdling peloton.
Our first chat of the day was with Node 4’s James Moss – just back from the Tour de Beauce, straight into the mid-week British Criterium Championship and not sure how he’ll do today.
Former champion, Hamish Haynes is across from Belgium – form has been slower to show this year, but top ten placings in the kermises have been coming and the eternal Haynes optimism is glowing again.
I’ve been betting Dave large quantities of Scotland’s national drink – Irn Bru – for the last two years that Evan will make the top ten at the British.
We’re treble or quits, this year – I’m due him a truck load of the stuff if Evan doesn’t get up there.
Another Scotsman who’s been riding well, but far from the hills of Beauce is Michael Nicholson – he’s just signed for Belgian/Algerian squad Geofco-Ville d’Algers.
Former champion, Rapha’s Kristian House is looking sharp and thinks that Sky will go for it from the gun but as he says; ‘there’s 20 guys could win.’
Our blogger Dan Patten (Soenens-Glass Construct) is over from Belgium for the ‘big one’ but whilst the twisty bits of the circuit are reminiscent of Flanders, the winding hills of North Yorkshire aren’t.
Scotsman Robbie Hassan (Herbalife) leads the bunch up the leafy little climb from the abbey with Jez Hunt stone last – he needs space to get on top of that 11 tooth sprocket – and the 2012 British elite road race championships are off and running.
Lap one of the first of three on the big circuit and our picnic (Callum took us up-market, with bread sticks and humus) in Ampleforth is interrupted by a squall.
‘Four clear with eight chasing’ says the announcer’s car.
I almost miss the break, they’re on us at warp speed – Giro grafter Ian Stannard and former Euro time trial champion Alex Dowsett are there for Sky, plus former British criterium champion Graham Briggs (Raleigh) and an Endura, we think.
The bunch is one long, long line, swishing over the wet tar in the rain, with Jez Hunt, Luke Rowe and Ben Swift policing the front.
It could be all over – it’s up to the other teams to bridge across and if they do, the three men with the thin blue lines up their back will counter.
Rapha’s former British champion, Kristian House is off the back – he must have punctured.
Lap two and we have an ID on the break, it’s grown to five – Dowsett, Stannard, Briggs plus Oli Beckingsale (Endura MTB Racing) and another Raleigh, Russell Hampton.
Hampton was just beginning to make his move to get aboard the Stannard Express when he passed us the first time – he’s done well to make it up.
There are four at around two minutes: Thomas Moses (100% ME), Nicolas Hutchins (GS Gruppetto), James McLaughlin (Sojasun Espoirs) and Joshua Edmondson (Team Colpack).
And it looks like it’s all over, from where we’re standing.
Endura are chasing at the head of the peloton – three of them, but the gap is yawning into many minutes.
We move to a better spot, at the start of the first of the six small laps.
Chris Boote (Zappi Pro Cycling) ambles past – he was tailed off and stops for a chat with us.
The team is organised by Italian ex-pro Flavio Zappi – who rode the Giro, back in the day – who has a cafe in Oxford.
And major respect to Endura – the four ‘in between’ have gone and the gap from break to bunch is down to 2:40; we didn’t think that was likely, last time round.
Kristian House is moving up for Rapha as the trees start to sway in the rising wind – at least it keeps the rain away.
Evan Oliphant is looking comfortable – he’s won on these roads in the past and doesn’t have to work with two in the break.
It looks over for Hamish Haynes and Scotsman Robbie Hassan, the peloton has split and they’re in the wrong half.
On the second of the small circuits it looks like Stannard’s discomfort on the previous lap was indigestion – he’s rampant again and Dowsett is gritting his teeth to hang on.
Hampton is still there but Beckingsale and Briggs have gone – it’s no surprise, Beckingsale is a mountain bike man and Briggs a criterium specialist.
The gap is out to 3:15 with Sky and Raleigh blocking and Endura looking tired, all of a sudden.
Our favourite for the day, Endura’s Russell Downing, is stone last in the peloton and not looking comfortable.
Behind it’s definitely over for Hamish and Scotsman Alex Coutts.
Coutts is with RTS Racing, this year and is a previous winner of the Tour of Taiwan – but he’s not going to win this one.
Third time up and Stannard is bear-like, Dowsett and Hampton are still there but the gap has really yawned back to the peloton – 5:45.
There’s a lone rider in no man’s land, 119 Joshua Hunt (Terra Footware) but he’s 4:15 back – he’ll struggle to bridge that gap, in this wind.
Sky are at the front of the peloton, controlling things, Endura seem to have thrown the towel in.
Barring acts of God, it looks like Stannard to us.
The fourth ascent of our wee hill changes nothing – except the gap.
It’s now way over six minutes – Joshua Hunt has gone as the ‘man in the middle’ but one of the Node 4 guys has taken his place.
Ben Swift and a 100% ME rider have jumped a fragmenting bunch and are chasing the Node 4 rider.
With the wind, distance and Stannard – it’s carnage in what’s left of the peloton.
But the Sky guys will be conscious of those other precious UCI points – waste not, want not.
Jez Hunt grimaces, maybe the fact that he’s on a gear that a motor paced guy would wince at isn’t helping.
Eight minutes is a long time – that was the gap back to the bunch from the three in the lead – with Swift and Pete Williams (Node 4) at around one minute less than that – the fifth time they passed.
Another year and another Sky demonstration ride.
We skipped watching the race for the final time on our little climb, and made for the finish.
The climb on the small circuit was a toughie – a mile, winding up through the trees and a long false flat over the top.
The fast descent gave way to picturesque but technical roads through green countryside, with the finish in the grounds of lovely Ampleforth Abbey.
Stannard slipped his erstwhile companions and rode the tough, gently rising finishing straight with a minute and more to spare over Dowsett, who in turn had dropped Hampton.
Ben Swift was way back in fourth place, with the bunch close behind – Jez making it four in the first five for Sky.
Ten minutes late a disconsolate Russ Downing was slumped in a folding chair; whilst a smiling Stannard pedalled off to the medal presentation.
Evan didn’t make the top ten so Dave says that I have to buy shares in AG Barr – producers of Irn Bru – to settle my debt to him.
Hamish battled to the finish – he’s not a man to waste a ferry fare, is our Hamish.
Another British Champs, another Sky win – all we need now is for Brad to win the Tour.
But Dan, we miss you.
Results - British Road Race Championships 2012
1. Ian Stannard Sky Pro Cycling 4:48:43
2. Alex Dowsett Sky Pro Cycling @ 1:14
3. Russell Hampton Team Raleigh – GAC @ 1:24
4. Ben Swift Sky Pro Cycling @ 7:45
5. Jeremy Hunt Sky Pro Cycling @ 7:59
6. David Clarke Node4 – Giordana Racing @ st
7. Luke Rowe Sky Pro Cycling @ st
8. Jonathan McEvoy Endura Racing @ 8:02
9. Simon Richardson Team IG – Sigma Sport @ 8:05
10. Michael Cuming Rapha Condor Sharp @ 8:07
11. Matthew Holmes Team Raleigh – GAC @ 8:09
12. Robert Partridge Endura Racing @ 8.10
13. Peter Williams Node4 – Giordana Racing @ st
14. Yanto Barker Team UK Youth @ st
15. Joshua Edmondson Team Colpack @ 8.15
16. Mark McNally An Post – M.Donnelly @ 8.16
17. Liam Holohan Team Raleigh – GAC @ 8:22
18. Evan Oliphant Team Raleigh – GAC @ st
19. Richard Handley Rapha Condor Sharp @ 8:31
20. Ben Greenwood Vanillabikes.com @ 9:00
21. Samuel Harrison 100% Me @ 9:57
22. Thomas Last Team IG – Sigma Sport @ 11:35
23. Adam Yates UVCA Troyes @ 11:39
24. Russell Downing Endura Racing @ st
25. Jack Kirk UVCA Troyes @ st
26. Luke Grivell-Mellor Rapha Condor Sharp @ st
27. Natan Edmondson SC Cene Valle Seriana @ 11:46
28. Chris Bartlett Marco Polo – Donckers Koffie @ 11:50
29. Kit Gilham Herbalife-Leisure Lakes Bikes @ 12:03
30. Richard Cartland Team Corley Cycles @ 14:53
31. Grant Ferguson Boardman Elite @ 16:35
32. Gruff Lewis Team UK Youth @ 18:38
1. Michael Cuming Rapha Condor – Sharp
2. Matthew Holmes Team Raleigh – GAC
3. Joshua Edmondson Team Colpack
1. Sharon Laws AA Drink – Leontien.nl 3:11:50
2. Elizabeth Armitstead AA Drink – Leontien.nl @ 1:36
3. Emma Pooley AA Drink – Leontien.nl @ 1:41
4. Nikki Harris Young Telenet Fidea @ 2:43
5. Sarah Storey Escentual For VioRed @ 3:52
6. Nicole Cooke MBE Team Raen – Honda @ 9:02
7. Catherine Williamson Team Bizhub – SCF @ 9:04
8. Katie Colclough HTC – High Road @ st
9. Emma Trott Dolman Boels @ 9.44
10. Natalie Creswick Mulebar Girl @ 9:51
11. Sarah Byrne Cycle Premier -Kovert @ 10:08
12. Claire Galloway Escentual For VioRed @ 16:34
13. Penny Rowson Matrix Fitness – Prendas @ st
14. Annabel Simpson Matrix Fitness – Prendas @ 16:36
15. Gemma Neill Team Leslie Bike Shop @ 16:40
16. Rebecca Heath VC St Raphael @ 16:48
17. Corrine Hall Node4 – Giordana @ 18:03
18. Eileen Roe Team Ibis Cycles @ st
19. Laura Massey Abergavenny RC @ st
20. Hannah Barnes Team Ibis Cycles @ 18:09
21. Lowri Bunn Abergavenny RC @ 18:13
22. Delia Beddis Dirtwheels Cycles @ 18:14
23. Nicola Juniper Corvida Allpress @ 18:22
24. Kayleigh Brogan Team Ibis Cycles @ 18:28
25. Karla Boddy High Wycome Cycling Club @ 19:10
1. Katie Colclough HTC – High Road
2. Penny Rowson Matrix Fitness – Prendas
3. Annabel Simpson Matrix Fitness – Prendas