Preview: 2011 Premier Calendar

This weekend  sees the start of the 2011 Premier Calendar with the DoonHame three day stage race in Scotland. VeloUK talks to Dean Downing and James McCallum about each of the rounds.
The Premier Calendar has a long history (click here to the series palmeres) in the sport when combined with the Star Trophy which preceded it and is the trophy the winning rider gets for all his efforts in winning the Premier Calendar. A look down the list of former winners reads like a who’s who of British road racing legends.

There are of course many great British classics, the CiCLE Classic, Perfs Pedal, Jock Wadley, Wally Gimber, Severn Bridge and others who are not part of the Premier Calendar series. There are also just as many former Classics that no longer survive. Races such as the Archer GP, the Five Valleys, the GP of Essex, Lancaster GP, Havant GP, Tour of the Cotswolds and others.

Included in the 2011 Premier Calendar series are seven races and it would seem after talking to Dean Downing (3rd in 2004) and James McCallum that none of the races are easy or flat. But it isn’t just the course that makes a race tough. There is the road surface, the conditions and the riders themselves.

The Premier Calendar events are a magnet for the top British based teams because winning a Premier Calendar event, which ever one it is,  is always a major triumph for a rider. Talking to riders over the last few years, winning a Premier Calendar is also getting tougher.

No one team is dominating although there has been in the last few years riders like Russell Downing and Chris Newton who have certainly stamped their authority on the series. And the first event in the 2011 series, a three day stage race with plenty of Premier Calendar points on offer,  Scotland’s DoonHame, will be crucial for any rider with overall series ambitions.

Not that winning the overall brings any more of a reward than the kudos of having won  the series and the Star Trophy because the series has failed to attract an overall sponsor offering riches to the winner of the series. That is a shame but no cyclist races in Britain for the money, or at least, not many! Here is the series of events in 2011:

Premier Calendar Schedule 2011
23rd April Tour Doon Hame Dumfries, Scotland
8th May Lincoln Grand Prix Lincoln, Lincolnshire
5th June Ryedale Grand Prix Ryedale, Yorkshire
19th June Tour of the Reservoir Stamfordham, Northumberland
31st July East Yorkshire Classic Beverley, Yorkshire
28th August Twinings Pro Am Tour Salisbury, Wiltshire
4th September Richmond Grand Prix Richmond, Yorkshire

Recently in a hotel bar some where in Britain,  VeloUK sat down with Dean Downing and James McCallum (both Rapha Condor Sharp)  to talk us through each of the races.

23rd April: Tour Doon Hame Dumfries, Scotland (3 Day Stage race)

Above: Chris Newton winning one of his two stages in 2010 as well as the overall.

With James being Scottish, who better to ask about a Scottish classic which is more known as the Girvan when it took place a little further north of Dumfries where it is now based. “Memories from when it was called the Girvan is wind, rain and stories of how brutal it was. Last year, it was a lot better race, one of the closest weekends we’ve had because it went right down to the wire pretty much.”

“This year they have gone back to the old format to make it as brutally hard as they can! You look at the profile and it looks real hard but there are a lot of real good racing roads around there. To win this is going to take a strong man with a  strong team and a team that works well together. Riders should not underestimate the course because it will bite you in the bum big time because the roads are just that way. One minute you‘ll be flying and the next you‘ll hit a crosswind section and its horrible and you’ll be on the back foot.”

“I think the race this year will surprise a few people. A lot of the race is on my old training roads and I know it like the back of my hand. I have tried to do two recces in the last two weeks and every time I have tried to do so, the wind is at 50mph!” You’ve been warned …

Stage winners
Stage 1:  1 Chris Newton Rapha, 2 Evan Oliphant, 3 Wouter De Groot
Stage 2:  1 Chris Newton Rapha, 2 Johnny McEvoy Motorpoint, 3 Malcolm Elliot Motorpoint
Stage 3:  1 Jack Bauer Endura , 2 Ian Bibby Motorpoint, 3 Steve Lampier Pendragon – Le Col

Final Overall:
1 Chris Newton Rapha- Condor- Sharp E 9:53:25
2 Jack Bauer Endura Racing E at 0:10
3 Peter Williams Motorpoint – Marshalls E at 0:18
4 Evan Oliphant Endura Racing E at 0:20
5 Ian Wilkinson Endura Racing E at 0:20

8th May Lincoln Grand Prix Lincoln, Lincolnshire
Without a doubt, just based on what the riders say, this is the daddy of the British classics, a huge race in the calendar and the one riders dream of winning. It is the ‘Roubaix’ of Britain and not just because the riders have to climb a 1 in 6 cobbled climb 11 or 12 times in a distance of 86 miles. It is brutal!

Sitting opposite me was a former winner, Dean Downing and his face when he won the race said it all. It was a picture (see below)! And so Dean, what are your memories of the race I asked to which he replied “2007 wasn’t bad when I won it!”

“Lincoln is a classic on its own. It has the cobbled climb and the flat round the back and its like some of the amateur Belgian classics I used to race when based over there. Lincoln is local to me as well. It is about those first few laps as it does generally split from the back of the peloton. You get 25 or so riders going hard up the climb one lap and its away and everyone else is struggling to get back.”

“The section over the top is so fast that everyone is chasing the race and it goes on like that lap after lap. If you hit the climb in the first 10 or 15, you generally ride up the climb at good pace, not flat out but those who get caught out by that are then chasing the race. Last year, we saw that with Team Sky. They were ready to rip it up but our boys got in there and we did the ripping up ourselves and Chris came out of it great.”

“We’ll be up for winning that again as a team, it’s a special race that one.”

So is it won by a sprinter or a lone break? “You have to sprint up that climb 11 times so its generally a breakaway. I think only once has it finished with a bunch sprint. It is such a tough race.”

2010 Result
1  Chris Newton,  Rapha Condor Sharp  3:23:13
2  Philip Lavery Team Ireland U23 3:23:20
3  Simon Richardson Sigma Sport – Specialized  3:24:02
4  Alex Wetterhall Team Sprocket ProCycling  3:24:07
5  Ian Bibby Motorpoint Marshalls Pasta  3:24:22

5th June Ryedale Grand Prix Ryedale, Yorkshire

In pouring rain, a big crowd looking on, and Rob ‘killer’ Hayles wins the British Road Race Championship on the Ryedale GP course.

The third round of the Premier Calendar in 2011, is in North Yorkshire and starts and finishes in the grandest of settings, Duncombe Park, Helmsley. The race was the setting for the British Road Race Championships when Rob Hayles won it and is a course  not known for big climbs but more a wearing down sort of course.

The race is a long one, 112 miles and Dean Downing says it’s the accumulative climbing over that distance which does the damage. “It is a fast race and you are up and down all day and the speed of the race makes it a hard race.”

The event also falls smack in the middle of the Halfords Tour Series and for those concentrating on the hour long midweek circuit races in that series, a five hour race is a just a little long for them. It’s suited to a rouleur type rider, the all rounder.

2010 Result
1. Rob Partridge Endura Racing E 04:27:49
2. Darren Lapthorne Rapha Condor / Sharp E st
3. Wouter Stybrandy Sigma Sport / Specialized E st
4. Andrew Tennant Motorpoint Marshalls Pasta E at 1:27
5. Ian Wilkinson Endura Racing E st

19th June Tour of the Reservoir Stamfordham, Northumberland
The big difference for this event is that this year its on at a different time in the seeson. Normally this race is at the start of the season at the end of March but is now on a few weeks out from the Northern Rock Cyclone British Road Race Championships at the end of June.

“It’s going to be warm” quipped Dean Downing with James McCallum adding “at that point of the year,   everyone is in good form and that will change the whole dynamics of this race. Usually it’s the first race of the year so a lot of guys are not as fit as they could be and some guys are absolutely pinging. It is always all over the place but this year could be a very well contested one.”

“It may even come down to a larger group sprint. Normally a break goes on the climb of a dozen guys or so and it just whittles down from there and it could be one of the most exciting races” James explained.

Dean Downing added that the course for the Reservoir is very grippy with James adding that it isn‘t just the climb but the savage crosswind at the top. “You don’t get  a lot of rest on that course. The hill is only 500 or 600 metres long but you come into it slow for about a k before it”.
“I like that race” says James. “It suits me quite well race.”

2010 Result:
1 S Richardson Sigma Sport ( E ) 03:57:08
2 I Wilkinson Endura Racing ( E ) 54 secs
3 N Gustavsson Team Sprocket ( E U23 ) st
4 M Bialoblocki Willier / Bigmaggys ( E ) st
5 T Horton Team Sprocket ( E U23 ) 02:10

31st July East Yorkshire Classic Beverley, Yorkshire
The East Yorkshire event is a savage race says South Yorkshire’s Dean Downing. “It starts quite gentle and everyone is flat out, flat out attacking“ Dean says. “Normally, it’s a tailwind out to the circuit and its flat for the first fourty or fifty k and everyone’s flat out and then they get to the climbs and park up, pop or the break goes and that’s it for the day.”

“I have been third there in 2008 when I won the crit champs on the Friday and it’s another tough race. It is certainly hard in the middle with all the climbs, five or six steep little ring climbs on very narrow lanes and then it comes back a different way so before you get to the finishing circuit, there are a couple of climbs which hurt the legs as well.”

There have been some surprise winners on the course and that says James is the beauty of the course for the East Yorkshire Classic.

Dave Clarke, the roadman, wins the East Yorkshire Classic in 2010.

2010 Result
1. Dave Clarke, Pendragon Le Col, Colnago
2. Ian Bibby, Motorpoint Marshals Pasta @ 8 secs
3. Marcin Bialoblocki, Wilier/Big Maggies/Prendas
4. Chris Newton, Rapha Condor Sharp
5. Rob Partridge, Endura Racing

28th August Twinings Pro Am Tour Salisbury, Wiltshire
This is a new race on the calendar so know one is really sure what it will be like until we see the course but with the race due to take place in and around Salisbury, it will certainly have a different dynamic to the other races that are mainly out in the countryside. One of VeloUK’s contributors Patrick Salt who lives down that way says of it “Tony Gibb should one to watch if the race comes down to a sprint finish”.

Patrick goes on say with his mystic meg crystal ball on the table in front of him, “The rumour is that it is likely to be one or two big loops to get about 100  kilometres covered, then a shorter finishing circuit, all based around Salisbury. Whether the big loops will be passing through the city as well as the finishing circuit is not known. What may be a clue about the likely route of the big loop/s is that the big new sponsor, Twinings (should be plenty of tea and coffee at HQ!) have a base in Andover on a big commercial area there. Although that may be a possibility, the race is based in Wiltshire, and the complication of going into another county (Andover is Hampshire) with fixing the road closures and police, might be a factor against it.” More info on this when we get it.

4th September Richmond Grand Prix Richmond, Yorkshire
The final race of the Premier Calendar takes place just before the Tour of Britain so the top British teams will honing their form for that UCI stage race. Another savage race says Dean before adding .. “where have all the flat courses gone!”

Dean went on to say “I was speaking to Kevin Byers, a former pro from the 80’s,  before I rode it and he said ‘its an eleven mile course and its seven miles uphill and the rest down.’ I was like, that can’t be right but it is! It has big laps with a steep climb, 39×23 which you come at from a dead turn and then there’s the cross winds across the moors before it comes into a great finish at Richmond. It’s a wearing down race, a real roadmans course.”

2010 Result
1.  Kristian House Rapha Condor Sharp E 03:10:47
2.  Dan Craven Rapha Condor Sharp E @ 16
3.  Johnny McEvoy Motorpoint – Marshals Pasta 1 u23 @ 28
4.  Chris Newton Rapha Condor Sharp E @ 1:31
5.  Dave Clarke Pendragon – Le Col – Colnago E @ 1:33

So there you have it. No easy races in the 2011 Premier Calendar and it all starts this weekend in Scotland at DoonHame on a much changed course which will climb up to the highest village in Scotland. That says it all!

Find out all you need to know about the race by clicking here. VeloUK will be following the fortunes of what happens in the race with pictures from the event on day 2 and 3.

VeloUK would love to hear from readers as to what races should be included in a season series to choose the season‘s top roadman. Click here to email us or use the Comments box at the bottom of the page.

1 Chris Newton Rapha Condor Sharp 543
2 Simon Richardson Sigma Sport Specialized Cycling Team 343
3 Jack Bauer Endura Racing 301
4 Jonathan McEvoy *** Motorpoint – Marshalls Pasta RT 298
5 Evan Oliphant Endura Racing 295
6 Marcin Bialoblocki Wilier/ Ciclismo 280
7 Ian Wilkinson Endura Racing 259
8 Rob Partridge Endura Racing 218
9 Peter Williams Motorpoint – Marshalls Pasta RT 213
David Clarke Pendragon – Le Col – Colnago 213

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