The 63rd edition of the Lincoln Grand Prix didn’t disappoint, culminating in a fierce sprint showdown for the women, with Storey Racing’s Durrell taking the win by just two seconds over OnForm’s Henderson.
This was in stark contrast to the men’s race, with the unattached rider Richardson attacking on the penultimate lap and holding off a splintering chasing group to take a solo breakaway win.
The Lincoln Grand Prix was the final round in the men’s Spring Cup Series and the first round for the National Women’s Road Series, with the race falling perfectly as the last event in the city’s Festival of Cycling.
Last year’s edition saw JLT Condor’s Ian Bibby win on the streets of Lincoln after an improvised big-ring technique, as Rory Townsend placed second to win the series overall.
It was also my first time at the race, conveniently placed at a time I needed to take a break from university exams.
Certainly one of my favourite events to go to last year, Lincoln had it all. Perfect weather, a real fight for the overall jersey and the Michaelgate. I knew I had to come back, and the race quickly became a staple in my own cycling calendar.
In 2018, Lincoln was again well prepared for another day of cycling. The cobble-filled streets were lined with barriers and decorated with red and white bunting in preparation for the women and men’s pelotons.
I arrived just in time to see the conclusion of the women’s race, after scaling the aptly-named Steep Hill that lies adjacent to the Michaelgate, with every road in Lincoln seemingly uphill, and certainly steep indeed.
The weather continued to improve, with grey clouds replaced by blue sky, and children proceeded to get more involved too. They constantly made an effort to cheer on riders by their number, not forgetting to shout hello to the team cars, too.
My friends and I positioned ourselves on the wall that runs next to the Michaelgate; no easy feat as the wall was actually taller than me, but we do what we have to do to get those shots for Instagram!
This is one of the most popular spots on the course, which I would highly recommend visiting. Not the easiest to scale, the 1-in-6 cobbled climb can truly make or break your race, especially having to face it 13 times.
If you stay there all day, you can see the change in the way riders climb it, with pained faces appearing and bikes swaying more with each lap. James Lowsley-Williams said:
“Lincoln is a cracking race. The sun comes out every year and we started on the front foot.”
An hour after Durrell had claimed the win for the women, the men’s peloton began the neutralised roll out from the Yarborough Leisure Centre, with an official start and finish at the Castle Square.
The riders had to complete 13 laps of a 13km circuit before the winner of the Lincoln Grand Prix would be announced, with tight corners, narrow lanes and the Michaelgate all helping comprise the route.
The cancellation of the Tour of the Wolds had brought the standings even closer for 2018, as Johnny McEvoy led the overall classification for Madison Genesis but only holding on to the lead by four points.
Wasting no time to break away, the first escapees of the day managed to distance themselves on the second lap.
Most notably involved was team pursuit world champion Charlie Tanfield; the Canyon Eisberg rider was having a commendable breakthrough season, his most recent accolade being none other than a Commonwealth gold in the 4,000m individual pursuit.
Putting the hammer down on the Michaelgate, he continued to lead the way alongside Ed Bradbury for JLT and Team Wiggins’ Tom Pidcock.
No surprise that the 21-year-old would go on to win the Brian Cossavella Michaelgate Trophy, topping the standings with 17 points.
As the leading group disintegrated, Canyon Eisberg did not.
One of the most active teams all day, Dexter Gardias, Lowsley-Williams, Matt Nowell, Alex Paton, Jack Pullar, Max Stedman, Tanfield and Andrew Tennant were frequently seen at the head of the race – making them more than deserving of gaining top points in the team classification on the day.
It was great to see them be such an attacking force throughout, covering moves and representing themselves admirably, which only bodes well for future races. Lowsley-Williams added:
“We had Charlie in the break, world champion and all, so it was good to have him up there.
“We rode really well as a team, Tennant was really good putting us into the bottom of the climb, then I was tagging all the attacks.
“We managed to get numbers up there and it played into our hands.”
With Richardson breaking away on the penultimate lap and looking safe to take the win, I had expected the chasing group to be battling it out together.
However, it was to be Tennant delivering one final blow, distancing the chasers and surging up the Michaelgate in pursuit of the lone rider up ahead.
Ultimately, Tennant would go on to place second, with his tenacious last lap attempt enough to keep ahead of JLT’s Ali Slater and Wiggins’ Mark Downey.
After the race had unfolded, spirits were high back at the Canyon Eisberg van.
It was nice to interview the boys after such a tremendous performance, leading to five men finishing in the top 16, Tennant placing second on the day and Stedman fourth overall in the series.
Now, the attention turns to the Tour Series – in which Lowsley-Williams is currently holding the sprints jersey – and the Rás Tailteann. Nowell said:
“The team were all over the race. I was pleased with how it went. I suffered a little bit in the last lap, I cramped going up the climb, but I’m pleased we were up there, covering the moves.
“We’ve got the Rás coming up next week. That for me is a pretty big goal. It’ll be, by far, the longest stage race I’ve ever done.
“We’ve got a good team going in and judging by today I think it’ll be successful.”
Lowsley-Williams returns to action in round two of the Tour Series in Motherwell on Tuesday night (7.30pm). He added:
“I’m going to concentrate on trying to secure the red sprints jersey. Then we’ll try and win that as a team. It’ll be a highlight for me, so I’ll do my best.”