Lincoln Grand Prix (Premier Calendar)

Newton back on top
By David Taylor for Snowdon Sports Editorial. Pictures by Andy Jones for Phil O'Connor Photography

Early series leader Chris Newton is back in the Premier Calendar driving seat after his latest win in Sunday's Lincoln Grand Prix

AFTER winning two of the first four events, Chris Newton (Middridge CRTDonohue Cycles) regained the lead in the BCF Premier Calendar series when he raced to victory in the Lincoln International Grand Prix on Sunday.

After losing his lead to Girvan Three-Day winner Jon Clay, Newton was back in command when he outsprinted breakaway rival John Tanner (Pro Vision-PowerBar) on the 13th and final ascent of the cobbled, one-in-six climb of Michaelgate into the city's Castle Square.

It was the Teesside rider's first win in the Lincoln classic. He had been runner-up twice, most recently in 1998 when he fell on the climb to the finish and Chris Lillywhite took the honours, but this time he came out top in a two-way battle with 1997 race winner Tanner.

Newton attacked on the final lefthander to take the verdict by a length, with the third member of the breakaway trio, Paul Manning (Alsager MRT), unable to hold Newton and Tanner on that last leg breaking climb after the trio had shared the lead for the last 40 miles.

Mark Lovatt (Pro Vision) led in the chasers, more than three minutes down, ahead of Julian Winn (GS Strada), who had fought his way back into contention after missing the early moves.

After last year's win by the French-based Lithuanian rider, Saulius Ruskis, Newton led a home triumph despite the presence of six overseas teams in Sunday's 114strong field. The last of these to be secured by organiser Ian Emmerson, the Flanders-Prefetex squad from Belgium, provided the best two overseas finishers, with New Zealander Scott Guiton and his Belgian team-mate, Steven de Neef, finishing seventh and eight respectively.

Tanner leads the way

National road race champion Tanner had started the day's action when he attacked with Ireland's Stephen O'Sullivan on the second of 13 laps. They were 20 seconds clear of the bunch when they completed the lap, but that was as much as they were allowed as the front of the pack splintered on the Michaelgate climb and Newton, Manning, Lovatt, James Taylor (City of Edinburgh RC), Julian Ramsbottom (Pete Read Racing), Bradley Wiggins (GB), Rod Ellingworth (Team McEll) and Hamish Haynes (Prickett Atom Elite) reached Tanner as O'Sullivan dropped back.

Tanner then punctured and lost the best part of a minute before fighting his way back and, over the next climb of Michaelgate, Danny Axford (Real Cost Car Imports) joined the leaders as Taylor and Haynes fell back.

After 40 miles, the leading group of eight was 1-30 clear as Winn led the chase along with Andrew Roche (Emyvale CC), Martin Ford (Arctic 2000), James Griffiths (Linda McCartney RT), Scott Guiton, Patrick Moriarty (Ireland), Holland's Pelle Kill (Energiewacht), Dean Downing (VC St Raphael), Gethin Butler (Preston Wheelers) and GB duo Neil Swithenbank and Jamie Alberts.

At the head of the field, it was either Tanner or Newton setting the pace each time up Michaelgate, with Manning never far away. But the three did not press home their advantage until the seventh ascent, when Newton had only Tanner and Manning for company, with the rest of the break at seven seconds before regrouping. Jamie Alberts was next through, at 1-20, having escaped from the second group.

The break forged ahead, with Tanner now forcing the pace. Winn was still pushing the chasing pack, at 1-26, while the third group was at 450 and in danger of being eliminated.

Wiggins was first to lose his place in the break as Tanner pushed hard on the pedals. Then Ramsbottom was gone. But Newton and Manning were able to match Tanner, and this time there was no waiting for the rest.

In the next eight miles Tanner, Newton and Manning gained more than two minutes as they left Lovatt, Axford, Ellingworth and Wiggins to be caught by Winn and Huw Pritchard (Linda McCartney RT) as the lap board showed three to go.

As the crowd grew to witness the finish in Castle Square, the trio's lead was 2-50 on Winn and Lovatt. Wiggins climbed off with two laps left, joining his team-mates Alberts and Steve Cummings.

On the bell lap, Tanner attacked on the back of the circuit and Manning then chanced his arm, but Newton countered both moves. Manning then tried again on the run back into the city before they hit the foot of the climb to the finish.

Newton went and Tanner lost a couple of lengths, but came back as that final climb began. Manning lost vital ground as Tanner and Newton climbed side by side for the final test of strength and it was neck and neck until the left turn on Michaelgate where Newton found that little extra to go clear for the line.

1. Chris Newton (Middridge CRT Donohue Cycles) 102m in 4-00-55
2. J. Tanner (Pro Vision -PowerBar) st
3. P Manning (Alsager MRT) at 23sec
4. M. Lovatt (Pro Vision) at 3-07
5. J. Winn (GS Strada) at 3-11
6. D. Rand (Bournemouth Arrow) at 3-19
7. S. Guiton (NZ, Flanders- Prefetex) at 3-30
8. S. De Neef (Bel, Flanders- Prefetex) st
9. J. Clay (SLBM) at 4-07
10. H. Pritchard (Linda McCartney RT) at 4-11
11. G. Bayton (Total Fitness RT) at 4-13
12. M. Ford (Arctic 2000)
13. G. Shirley (Rutland CC)
14. D. Downing (VC St Raphael)
15. J. Griffiths (Linda McCartney RT) all st
16. P Moriarty (Ireland) at 4-19
17. G. Butler (Preston Wh)
18. D. Axford (Real Cost Car Imports) both st
19. N. Swithenbank (GB) at 4-26
20. R. Ellingworth (McEll-Raleigh) at 7-33.

BCF Premier Calendar overall (provisional)

1. Chris Newton 164 pts
2. J Clay 142
eq 3. J. Tanner & H. Pritchard 113
5. J. Winn 109
6. M. Lovatt 99.

What they said

CHRIS Newton timed his winning move to perfection. "I saved everything for the last climb and that left turn," he said. "I made my effort, and got the length I needed. Each time up the big climb we kept dropping the rest of the break, but with so far to go we waited for them. But with four to go John carried on, and we were away. I felt OK today, although over the last few laps I was starting to cramp up. But I could see that John was suffering, too."

John Tanner, who had finished second to Saulius Ruskis at Lincoln a year earlier, recalled the decisive moment in this year's race. "Most of them [the other riders in the break] were just sitting in, so in the end I decided it was better to get on with it without them," he said. "My legs didn't feel too good to start with, but I felt better as we went on."

Paul Manning was still feeling the effects of the Circuit des Mines race in France, where he won two stages. "My legs went on the climb with two laps to go, so I knew I had to try to get away before that last climb to have any chance," he said. "I tried, but it was no good."

Julian Winn spent the race trying to get on terms with the leaders. "You have to keep near the front on this circuit, and when the break drifted away I was in the wrong place," he admitted. "I spent the rest of the race moving from group to group. I joined Mark Lovatt and we worked well together."

Previous Premier Calendar leader Jon Clay had to settle for ninth place, but had not expected much better. "I've been training at Manchester with the track squad for the last two weeks, so at halfway today I was finished," he reflected.