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Flying the flag: Are National Champs jerseys being devalued?

Joseph Delves
8 Jun 2017

Italy, France and Belgium force riders to compete in their National Championships, should others follow suit?

The Italian Cycling Federation has reminded cyclists wanting to ride at the European or World Championships that they will first have to contest the country’s National Championships later this month.

Riders will need to provide a valid excuse for missing the national road race in Piedmont on 25th July to be eligible for consideration to ride the European and World events later in the season.

Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport this week, Italian national coach Davide Cassani said the move was important to 'protect Italian cycling'.

'Certain values have to be respected and the Italian Azzurra jersey has to be honoured,' Cassani said. 'Whoever doesn't take part in the championship without a valid reason, will not be selected for the European and World Championships.

The development confirms a rule change made over the winter, with France and Belgium having already issued similar rulings themselves.

Prestige

It is hoped the move will restore prestige to the national jersey at a time when many riders across Europe are opting to stay away from their own championships.

Deciding which rider will have the honour of showing off their nation’s colours for the following 12 months, national titles were once fiercely contested across the continent.

However, in recent years pressure from an expanded race calendar together with sponsorship commitments have seen many top riders choosing to skip their home competitions.

This has increasingly set national cycling federations on a collision course with commercial teams.

National colours are easily distinguishable in the peloton and popular with fans, but some pro teams seem less keen than others to dedicating valuable marketing space on riders’ jersey to marking out their status as national champion.

Movistar is a case in point, with the red and yellow stripes on Spanish national champ José Joaquin Rojas's jersey barely standing out from the team's standard blue and green colour scheme.

Spot the National Champ

No such move is thought to be under consideration in the UK, where the British National Champs will take place on the Isle of Man from 22nd June.

Although Chris Froome, who has raced on previous occasions, won’t be in attendance, fellow Team Sky riders Luke Rowe, Ian Stannard, Peter Kennaugh and Tao Geoghegan Hart are registered to ride.

They’ll line up against a returning Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), who has been sidelined with illness.

In the women’s race Hannah Barnes (Canyon-SRAM) will be looking to defend her title against Lizzie Deignan of Boels–Dolmans and Danni King of Cylance Pro.

British National Road Race Champions 2007-present

Women's

2007 Nicole Cooke
2008 Nicole Cooke
2009 Nicole Cooke
2010 Emma Pooley
2011 Lizzie Armitstead
2012 Sharon Laws
2013 Lizzie Armitstead
2014 Laura Trott
2015 Lizzie Armitstead
2016 Hannah Barnes

Men's

2007 David Millar
2008 Rob Hayles
2009 Kristian House
2010 Geraint Thomas
2011 Bradley Wiggins
2012 Ian Stannard
2013 Mark Cavendish
2014 Peter Kennaugh
2015 Peter Kennaugh
2016 Adam Blythe