Riding to Victory by Kristian House
The National Championships hadn't been a race we'd been focused on all season. We'd just come off of the tour series where we were battling right to the end for overall victory, so everything had been about that. The final round was just three days before the Nationals, so as soon as we had finished I had so switch my focus. I was still doing a fair bit of training through the tour series and I think that had a lot to do with my winning that day.
I knew the course suited me pretty well. The early part of the race was undulating, with narrow roads, so I knew it would split up. The finishing circuits would be pretty hard, and with ten laps it would come down to a small group.
In the run-up to the event I'd been feeling really good, I'd ridden well in the crits, and in the last stage race we did midway through the tour series I'd been going well too. I had no doubt that I had good form for the day, but I put my hand up in the team meeting saying I would help Tom (Southam) and Chris (Newton) go for a podium, as they were both really up for it.
I was feeling pretty confident about the job I had to do. In the meeting I had said I would work for those two, and team manager John Herety had said I should try for the early break to give Tom and Chris someone to ride up to, and to help them toward the end. I enjoy that style of racing because it means you get to race from the word go... and that's what I did.
It had been all over the press that it was the best field in years. You take note of it, but at the end of the day it's a race, and you just have to race it. Bradley (Wiggins) and Chris Froome were absolutely flying that day, I can remember that, but I had good legs and my job was to get in the early break. I managed to help start the first break with Jez Hunt and some other riders. Groups kept coming up to my group and then it would split again but I always managed to stay in the front split.
When we hit the finishing laps and the four of us had escaped (Peter Kennaugh, Ian Stannard, Dan Lloyd and I) I still had it in my head that Tom or Chris were going to come up to us... there was still a big group behind with some of the favourites. Even when John Herety said that I should ride for myself, I still thought they would come back to us. It wasn't really until the last five laps that I thought I could make the podium. I didn't think about the win until the last few kilometres. John wanted me to attack early, but I was cramping up a little, I thought that if it came down to a four-way sprint it would be Kennaugh who was the quickest. I just gambled by putting everything in the sprint, and making sure I left it till just before the top of the climb before I tried to go.
I didn't realise I'd won until about a metre before I crossed the line. I knew I had that kind of result in me, I just hadn't expected it right then.
That feeling is what racing is all about. The crowd there was amazing, you could have been anywhere in Europe with the atmosphere at that finish. At the end of the race there were three people whose reactions I will never forget: John Herety, Garry Beckett and Tom Southam. They were all as excited as if they had won themselves. It was unreal – honestly – it's the only way to explain it.
I think the first time I kind of went "wow" was when I saw a reflection of myself in a shop window when I was wearing the jersey... it just looked so white. So brilliant. I think that "proud" is the one word to describe it and it's a feeling that I still feel about it now.