Copacabana Beach may be as far removed from the High Street in Stockton-on-Tees as it gets, but if two of the county’s finest are to excel in Rio this summer then a strong showing just a few yards north of the Yorkshire border would not go amiss.
Lizzie Armitstead and Ed Clancy have different aims in the National Road Race Championships in Stockton-on-Tees tomorrow but later this summer there is only Olympic gold on their mind.
Armitstead is among the favourites to rise to the top step of the podium in Brazil and a successful defence of the national title she won 12 months ago in Lincoln would merely cement that status.
The 27-year-old from Otley won The Women’s Tour down south last week, is the reigning world champion and the class of the British field tomorrow morning.
The three-time national champion will also be supported in Stockton by British cyclo-cross winner Nikki Harris, her Boels Dolmans team-mate and a controversial selection for the British team that will ride in Rio in August.
Dani King, the woman overlooked for a domestique role in support of Armitstead, gets an instant opportunity to prove selectors wrong.
The men’s race is highlighted by Mark Cavendish who last won the title in 2013 before Peter Kennaugh took charge by winning the last two.
The Team Sky rider cannot win a third in a row, though, after damaging his shoulder in the Tour of California last month.
The Yorkshire challenge is led by Ben Swift – runner-up two years ago – and also includes Leeds’ Josh Edmondson for NFTO, Sheffield’s Adam Blythe for Tinkoff-Saxo, Holmfirth’s Gabriel Cullaigh and Wakefield’s Ollie Wood for 100%Me.
Track specialist Clancy will be riding in support of Rotherham’s Russ Downing, national champion 11 years ago, for JLT Condor.
The road races start in the centre of Stockton (9am women, 1pm men) before heading out of town where the riders will complete six laps (women) and 12 laps of a 13.4 kilometre circuit that takes in the villages of Carlton, Thorpe Thewles and Redmarshall. The races finish on Stockton High Street.