Lincoln Grand Prix (Premier Calendar)
Courtesy of British Cycling. Report & Images: Larry Hickmott
Chris Newton has won the Lincoln GP in another stunning display by the Rapha Condor Sharp team. Riding from the front, the Olympic medallist dominated the race and well deserved his second victory in a race that is one of the country's best loved classics. Newton also now leads the British Cycling Premier Calendar Series.
As some five hundred people involved in either competing, support or the organisation of this years Lincoln Grand Prix, offered a collective thank you to weather gods and took an early morning look at the bright sky, one Pendragon rider was heard to comment “you don't get this in Wales”. Of course he meant the fantastic Lincolnshire sunshine especially ordered for this year’s race.
As the police and marshals moved the few remaining cars and other obstacles off the race circuit, the atmosphere at the start at the Yarborough Leisure Centre was hotting up nicely. The race itself got off to a reasonably trouble free start with one hundred and seventy six riders taking the start line.
This year’s race once again had the usual great mix with European, local and international based riders taking the start along with three of the Sky Pro Cycling team, Russell Downing, Geraint Thomas and Ben Swift hoping to prove their metal. Russell was hoping to make it to the line first for a fourth time but his brother Dean, riding for Rapha Condor Sharp who this year look a very strong team, was going to do his best to see either himself or one of his teammates over the line first.
The change of route also gave the organisers a chance to try a new location for the feeding station. This year it moved from it's usual Bail Gate area to Long Leys Road. The atmosphere there was reminiscent of the Tour De France, with support vehicles, helpers and spectators lining both sides of the road. The slight rise up to the feed station was proving to be a popular spot for spectators and gave them a perfect opportunity to cheer on their favourites.
The first man over the line on lap 1 was Russell Downing which came as no surprise to most people. He and his brother always receive a warm welcome and great support from the knowledgeable Lincoln crowd. Russell picked up the early points in the Brian Cossavella Michael Gate trophy and with seven laps to go, the three riders in the Sky Pro team all had three points.
An added spectacle this year was the Michael Gate youth races, giving the chance for local and visiting younger riders to race up the famous climb. The new event was well supported and organised and proved to be a great success. It will hopefully feature in next year’s programme and perhaps, we might have seen a future winner of the Grand Prix race in these youth events.
With six laps to go, the race was hotting up as the weather cooled and a nine man group had escaped. They included Dean Downing, Chris Newton (Rapha Condor Sharp), Simon Gaywood (Corley Cycles), Kit Gilham, Philip Lavery (Ireland), James Stewart (Raleigh), Jack Bauer (Endura), Alex Wetterhall (Team Sprocket) and a rider from the Pendragon team.
Many in the huge crowd were thinking at this point, it was all over for the rest of the field. The group started to go away after turning up the gas for the first lap of their escape and soon had a gap of a minute. As the race hit the two hour mark, some thirty riders were told to call it a day and were flagged for their last lap. With good weather, the pace had been high from the start and they had quickly found that the Lincoln Grand Prix is not very forgiving.
With a strong chase group having formed, it was soon closing in on the leaders and Chris Newton took matters into his own hands and put the hammer down up Michaelgate with three laps to go. His effort saw three riders go clear, Newton, Gilham and Wetterhall who all gained the top points in the Michael Gate KOH competition.
With two laps to go, the race was seemingly changing with every turn of the pedals and a group of 16 or so riders lead the race and the attacks were coming thick and fast but it wasn’t until with just over a lap to go that the winning move was made. Yet again, Chris Newton attacked on the climb and came through the finish area alone with the Irishman Lavery trying to close him down.
The crowds now in the Castle Square area had almost doubled in size as spectators had made their way to the finish line to cheer their favourites home. Nearly three and a half hours of racing had come down to a final few minutes and the crowd strained their necks to look around the corner to see who came into view first.
As ever though, you could hear the riders come well before you could see them as the roar of the spectators followed the riders up the climb but who would appear first? There could only be one winner as the experienced Chris Newton showed the young hope from Ireland the way home. Crossing the line, arms aloft, the Olympic medallist had won his second Lincoln GP and also done enough to climb to the top of British Cycling’s Premier Calendar table.
“I have been training hard recently, keeping myself to myself and doing the job. The form is okay. I’m just relaxed and enjoying it. I love riding my bike as much as ever and we have a good team. This year, we went out there to attack the race and I was in that small break (9 riders) early on and then I got in that three man break. I have ridden this race enough times to know how to stay near the front and sometimes, like today, it works really well and sometimes it doesn’t.”
“I raced it from the front and it was a hard race so although I’m not out of breath, my legs are cramping.” When told that his manager says he is a master tactician in British racing, Chris replied, “people think I’m serious all the time but I’m watching things and that is how you learn.”
Russell Downing (Team Sky): “Rapha rode unbelievable today. They showed just what a professional outfit they are. They covered everything and put men in moves. We were always on the back foot. We got G and Ben in that split and it took me a full lap to get there. I split it on the climb and got on at the bottom. I was nailed after that”.
“I didn’t having amazing legs today. I’ve had a week off and then trained hard for two weeks. Chris did an amazing ride there. I think this turning right at the top of Michaelgate (missing Bailgate because of roadworks) eased it up a bit. Normally it drags over the top and you can do some damage. But not today.”
Philip Lavery (Ireland): “It was pretty hard out there. I didn’t feel that great having some stomach problems but the legs are great and carrying me through. The last few weeks in the Tour of Ulster and Tour of the North I knew against the likes of Dean Downing and Malcolm Elliott that I was strong and I wanted to see how I’d do when I came here, against greater numbers, and see if I could match it.”
Simon Richardson (Sigma Sport/Specialized): “It was unpredictable this year, not the usual Lincoln. The climb didn’t seem as selective as normal. Whether it was this extra dogleg, I don’t know. A lot of the race just seemed to be attacks. It seems though the right move got away on the closing laps and I was feeling a bit outnumbered up there.”
“For some reason though I managed to clip off with the Swedish dude and get third. The descent was really selective because of the wind at the bottom I think. There was no way we were going to pull Chris Newton and the Irish rider back. To podium here in this is good but it would have been great to have done better.”
“With a field as big as this and mixed ability, it was a bit sketchy out there. Everyone knows you have to be in the right place at the bottom of the climb so the early laps were a bit hairy. I was anticipating the move would go after three or four laps but regardless of whether you made the move, you had to be at the front each lap. Having Kit in the break was great.”
Ben Swift (Team Sky): “That cobbled climb was really hard. Two laps in I had a dig to see what it was like and have some fun. Then a few laps later we were moving up to have a go and I got my handlebars caught up with a camera guy and went over the handlebars. So that put me on the back foot. G was riding strong.”
“This is so different here and hard racing. We averaged 43k an hour and it was on all the time. In the pro racing it goes then eases off and it then goes off again. It was great to be part of it though. British racing is not easy by a long way.”
Simon Gaywood (Corley Cycles Cervelo) who was in the nine man break. “We got away after three or four laps and when it first formed, we went pretty hard for a lap just to get the gap and then it settled down. I think we were partially waiting to see whether there were going to be any more hitters coming across because we were expecting one or two of the Sky boys because it must have been carnage behind.”
“Newton was flying. I think after we were away for three or four laps, he just went as hard as he could from the bottom of the climb and by the time he’d gone over the top, he had a few hundred yards and then I think Kit (Gilham) and one of the Swedish riders went across to make that break of three. A big group of 15 or 20 got across to us then but I was canned by then.”
“I love this race and would love to get on the podium.”
Ed Clancy (Motorpoint/Marshals Pasta): World Omnium champion no less, and an amazing bike rider on the track, Ed showed he’s making great progress on the road as well with a great performance in this very hard event. “I have had a good start to the season. This year, I have done Cintron, Girvan, and Brittany and all three have gone a lot better than last year”.
“It’s good that my road racing and my climbing is going a bit better. It makes everything a bit more interesting. Last year, all I could do was race the crits but this year, although I may not be winning a race on a cobbled climb, just to be in and out of a few moves like today and do my bit for the team is great”.
Malcolm Elliott (Motorpoint/Marshals Pasta): “The race was a bit up and down for me. I am always good on that climb but early on there was that much fighting needed to be done to get position it was like you were having to use up too much energy. So I was sitting a little further back than I normally do and making up ground on the climb but that wasn't ideal.”
“I never went back further than around 50th place but even that is a long way back on that climb.”
“Around two thirds distance, we got into the move that brought back the chase group and almost got into the front move. It was frustrating because you’d storm the climb get probably 20 or 30 seconds over the top and then fail to consolidate it and give all your gains back”.
“I was looking at things more positive at that point though and while Ian (Bibby) was in the front move, he was outnumbered. When we almost got them back, it stalled again as it kept doing and that was when Andy and Jonny got into a move along with Rus (Downing) and they started to go away. Although I would like to have been there, I knew I had to give it room to get across because we needed two more guys up with Ian and me being in it as well would not have helped as the others would not let it go.”
“Looking at what was around me after they went, we weren’t going to bring it back so it was a case of riding in for a place.”
When told there were around five crashes, Malcolm said that he was surprised there weren’t more with the amount of jostling going on early in the race. Asked how the Lincoln compares to when he won in 1983, he replies “it is a much harder race now. Back then, it was a Star Trophy but there was also a pro class and the course was different. It didn’t have the Michaelgate climb for example which made it a different race.”
On the speed of the race, 43k an hour, Malcolm said that wasn’t bad going but the race actually felt faster. “It was very fast all day.”
1 Chris Newton Rapha Condor Sharp 3:23:13
THE BRIAN COSSAVELLA MICHAELGATE TROPHY SPONSORED BY: UNIVERSAL
Premier Calendar Standings
1. Chris Newton Rapha Condor Sharp 260