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  • The column: Let’s put national championships weekend back on the cycling map

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    National championships weekend is brilliant but doesn’t have the profile it deserves. It should be front and centre, not a footnote

    Photographs: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com
    National Championships

     

     

    While the next week is decidedly arid when it comes to UCI-rated races, it’s positively drowning in national championships. Not every country holds theirs this weekend, with the southern hemisphere tending towards the start of the year. Argentina held its champs back in April, which means we already know we’ll be seeing Max Richeze in fetching sky blue at Brussels’ Grand Départ.


    Most hold the whole thing over the same week, although some do split the disciplines. No-one seemed to notice that Slovenia’s Tadej Pogačar beat Matej Mohorič to the TT title back at the start of the month. Mohorič will be looking to keep the road jersey this Sunday. Assuming it is this Sunday.


    Because, all told, it’s a bit of a nightmare to keep track of. Several hours of Googling has so far managed to narrow down the location of the Dutch championships to “the Netherlands”. Reliant on national federations and fax machines, ProCyclingStats understandably shrug their shoulders at the whole thing. They’ll get round to adding all the results eventually, they say.

    National championships


    But it would be nice if someone were to see it as an opportunity, seize the initiative and sort the whole lot out into a single coherent entity. In the latest Rouleur Podcast, Tour de France commentator and Rouleur columnist Ned Boulting came up with a brilliant idea.


    He suggested that there should be a Soccer Saturday-style TV show, where you would tune in to watch retired cyclists in a studio, each watching a different national road race. The host would then cut between them for a bit of visual-free commentary as and when things get interesting. If you’ve never spent a Saturday on the sofa with only Jeff Stelling and Paul Merson for company we can understand why it might seem like a bizarre thing to do, but it’s more exciting than it sounds. There’s even a drinking game. (Of course there’s a drinking game – Ed)


    We can picture it now: Gary Imlach interrupting Carlton Kirby’s speculation as to the contents of Mathieu Van der Poel’s lunch musette “because we’ve got to head over to La Haie-Fouassière, where Daniel Friebe has news of crosswinds blowing the race to pieces.”; “They’re just about to hit the Paddestraat at the Belgian championships and one of the twenty Lotto Soudal riders has darted off the front.”; “There’s been a big bunch crash in Norwich. Rob Hayles, what’s the latest?”; “It’s unbelievable, Gary!”

    National Championships


    As the races finish we cut to each one for the first glimpse of the new champ, beaming in their national colours for the first time. (Or fifth, in some cases)


    Red, White and Blue: National Champions and their jerseys


    Logistically it feels like it would be tricky. But would it really? Several of the larger nations already stream their championships and the technology to do so is only getting cheaper. Most of the races take place on a simple finishing circuit so just send Rob Hatch with a pair of binoculars, a smartphone and an anorak. What more do you need?


    This feels like a task tailor-made for GCN. Dan Lloyd et al, what d’ya say?