Lincoln Grand Prix – Event Report

Storm clouds swept across a bright and breezy Lincolnshire sky line heralding the start of the day for every one involved with the 56th Lincoln Grand Prix.
The historic Castle Square was once again the focal point and finish area for this year’s race and as early as 6am the sounds of a well practised team of volunteers could be heard preparing it for the several thousand spectators which were expected to be there at the finish

The race got off to a prompt ten am start with a full field lining up to tackle the eleven laps of the  eighty six mile race. So with the waving of flags and blowing of whistles, the race convoy pulled out of the Yarborough Leisure Center, and with that the clouds parted the sun shone down with the promise of a fantastic days racing

With a strong wind still blowing conditions were more suitable for a tactic of wait and see and try and hide from the wind within the main bunch of riders, but as the sun dried out the roads the racing proper started and it became clear that quite a few of the stronger riders were going to take it on head first.

The first three laps were dominated by a group of four riders; Kristian House, Tom Murray, Scott Thwaites and James Stewart. They created a small lead and it slowly build to over  two minutes.

The Rapha Condor Sharp team were sat on the front of the bunch and with their man in the lead break they were happy to control the speed and give the break away every chance. One or two brave  riders tried to make the gap but on your own even ten seconds can seem like an impossible distance to cross. With the main field now averaging about 19 minutes a lap the tempo was high even by last years very fast time and the course began to take it’s toll on the leading few, perhaps if they had had  another couple of riders to share the work load it might of stayed away. As the inevitable began to happen and the riders in the main field got more organised and the shouts of their managers began more vocal the gap came down to under a minute.

With strong winds still blowing across the run into Lincoln it was hard work for many riders to hold onto a wheel and the race strung out creating a brilliant sight for the spectators on the bottom half of the course and convoy of cars, motor bikes and riders made exciting viewing.

With five laps to go the leaders had held only a few seconds lead over the main peleton and as they made the 1 in 6 Michaelgate climb the race was all back together with a surprising amout of riders still in contention and some of the bigger teams still to show their hands.

Kristian House had been the driving force in the break away and had built enough points to win the Brian Cossavella Michaelgate trophy with Scott Thwaites taking second and the Aussie Zac Demster in third place. This competition once again highlighted the strength and fitness of  the majority of riders this year with many of the 600 strong sportive riders in the Saturday event remarking that they found it hard going just tackling the climb once!

Building on the success of last years schools event which saw young riders tackle the climb, British Cycling – Go ride organised an inter schools competition with four local schools taking part in a two lap mini race taking in Castle Square and The Minster Yard. The races were held in-between laps and proved popular with the crowds in and around the finish area and as usual the gave all the young riders fantastic support, and who knows we might of seen a future champion in the making, with the riders averaging 19mins to complete the full circuit

With three to go in the race, the big teams had got finally organised and tightly packed splashes of colour could be seen trying to support their stronger riders as they pushed hard for the finish line.
There was still a good eighty riders in contention for a top place and although weary and tired all perhaps dreamt of a podium finish.

Magnus Backstedt of UK Youth Team had put in a good effort, with the big man himself keeping an eye on proceedings from back in the bunch. The previous winner of the Paris-Roubaix although not in the form of his earlier years is still a strong competitor and the UK Youth charity with the backing of former Formula One racing driver Nigel Mansel did much to raise awareness of their cause. Nigel Mansel was even there on the day driving  the team car and his son Greg was competing in the race.

With the closing few laps of the race getting ever closer Ian Bibby and the Motorpoint team were not far off the front with Marcin Bialoblocki, a Polish rider who has been over in the UK for the last year doing an excellent ride.

As the race took to the countryside again, a group of some seventeen riders had escaped off the front of the main pack with Rapha Condor once again with a healthy contingent. Sigma Sport had also made the break with Kit Gilham in with a good chance along with Simon Gaywood and riders from Team Raleigh. Scott Thwaites was in the thick of it again after his earlier breakaway efforts with Kristian and Zac.

David McCann of the ever popular and hard working Irish team, who had earlier had to pick himself up off the floor and use his energy and skills to get back onto the back of the peleton had not only made the break away but amazingly had the energy to spare to jump off the front and try and go for a solo effort. His team mate Philip Lavery, last years second place rider and tipped for a good finish again, played more of a supporting role this year but the Irish riders were always up and amongst the front of the race.

As the field swung round for the final lap into Lincoln it was hard to pick a winner. In previous years it had come down to only a select few but this year the massive crowd in the square would see something of a bunch sprint finish with riders attacking up the steep climb of Michaelgate which they had already seen ten time before. As usual there was hardly a place to stand on the pavements of the climb as the crowds had picked their spots as early as 9am and roared on their favourites to one last push.

The bottom of the hill saw Scott Thwaites of Endura Racing with a fantastic effort on the cobbles, helped by his team mates effort, managing to pull a couple of yards out on Motorpoints’ Ian Bibby and the under twenty three rider crossed the line first and took the glory and the applause of an appreciative crowd, a deserving winner of the 56th event and one of the most dominant riders in this year’s race. Ian Bibby held on for second place and his team mate Johnny McEvoy took third. A rush of wheels and gears saw a mass finish for the rest of the field with many sprinting hard for the minor places.

Once again The Lincoln Grand Prix had lived up to it’s reputation of the best one day event in the country and had given the riders and spectators alike a fantastic day’s racing to enjoy.