The only way is Essex at road race champs
THE only way was certainly Essex on Sunday when the three top county race cyclists swept the podium places in the British National Road Race Championship at Ampleforth, North Yorkshire.
Chelmsford born Ian Stannard (Team Sky) claimed the biggest win of his professional racing career by winning with Great Baddow's Alex Dowsett – Stannard's team-mate at Team Sky – second and Basildon's Russell Hampton (Team Raleigh – GAC) finishing third.
The 114 mile race provided the 25 year-old Stannard with the opportunity to demonstrate the enormous power he generates that makes him such an important part of Team Sky's armoury as he stamped his authority on the race from the opening lap.
The championships provides the home based riders with an opportunity to match themselves against Britain's top European based riders but for the last three years it's been the European pros who've held the upper hand – and Stannard hasn't been outside the top four finishers on each occasion.
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Adding fuel to the argument that he's currently probably the country's top One Day rider, Stannard bridged the gap to a break of three riders that formed in the opening 20 miles of the race and once that group had increased to five riders – including Dowsett and Hampton – they were never caught by the quickly demoralised peloton left behind in their wake.
At one point their lead stretched to nearly seven minutes but Stannard pushed his group along until they'd added a further two minutes to their lead.
Talking after the race, Dowsett described how they re-established their dominant lead: "Once our lead had been cut back we put the hammer down or should I say, Ian did! It wasn't a question of tactics, he just went.
"He could have said what he was going to do but it wouldn't have made any difference, he just went. Ian so deserved that win.
"My second place finish doesn't make up for not being selected for the Olympic Games but proved that I'm coming back after my awful year so far.
"Now I'll concentrate on the second part of the season, hopefully being selected for the World Championships and doing well there".
A delighted Stannard said: "It's a real honour to get to wear the National champion's jersey although it wasn't necessarily a target of mine at the start of the season but when you get to the Nationals you always want to give it a go.
" And I had good legs on the day and so knew I'd be in a position to get the win.
"The Nationals is always a difficult race but from previous years I knew that you had to go from the very start so that's exactly what I did. I now get to wear the jersey for 12 months so I'm really very pleased".
The win gave Stannard a double reason to celebrate as it was recently confirmed that he has been put on the eight-man shortlist – to be whittled down to just five riders – for Team GB's London Olympics road race team that everyone expects to be formed around efforts to help Mark Cavendish claim Britain's first gold medal on the opening day of the Games.