Feature: Dan Ellmore (Lincoln GP Organiser)

It seems so long ago now, but at the end of February I sat down with two people who have a very long running association with the Lincoln Grand Prix; the current organiser Dan Ellmore (2020 will be his 5th) and the organiser of all but 15 of the 65, Ian Emmerson.

Feature: Dan Ellmore (Lincoln GP Organiser)

Photo: The Lincolnite @thelincolnite

It seems so long ago now, but at the end of February I sat down with two people who have a very long running association with the Lincoln Grand Prix; the current organiser Dan Ellmore (2020 will be his 5th) and the organiser of all but 15 of the 65, Ian Emmerson.

This feature, part one of two, was supposed to go out as a preview for the race which was due to be held on May 10 but sadly, the race has had to be postponed until August 15/16.
The planned new schedule will be as follows:

August 15: Bike Night, Lincoln GP Sportive, Newells Michaelgate Hill Dash
August 16: Rapha Lincoln Grand Prix presented by MinebeaMitsumi (Men & Women)

The above dates will obviously be subject to the suspension of events being lifted and that Police support and Medical cover will be available.

Above: Jonathan Dayus and Gordon McCauley (twice second in the race) battling it out on wet cobbles as they come into Wordsworth Street from Michaelgate

So, as a celebration of the race, a Monument in the British racing calendar for road cycling, here is part 1 of the two interviews I did in Lincoln, this one with current organiser Dan Ellmore. The race was first held in 1956 and the event’s website has a wonderful article on the race’s history which you can see by clicking here: http://www.lincolngrandprix.co.uk/site/past-editions/race-history

The list of winners is a who’s who of stars from the domestic racing scene and riders I would read about growing up in Australia. Two of them, Russell Downing and Paul Curran, have won four each and last year, Tom Stewart made it two wins after having denied Russ Downing his fifth win when Tom won his first in 2016. When I came into the sport in the second half of the 90’s, I’d read about the race but it wasn’t until I got to know the elite riders of the day, like a rider who was second twice in the race, Gordon McCauley (NZ), I realised from what he was saying, just what a must win race this was.

Four time winner Russell Downing, equal with Paul Curran 

There were various reasons for this. The race’s history for one as it was fast becoming the only race to survive from a load of history loaded events like the Archer GP, Havant GP, Essex GP, Tour of the Cotswolds and many others. The location of the race as well helped because riders, let’s face it, are show offs and love a crowd to perform in front of and the Lincoln Grand Prix provides that every year rain, hail or shine.

The course hasn’t changed in all the years I have been to it except for the national champs, and the years that Dan has been organising it. It used to start at Yarborough Sports Centre and finish between the Castle and the Cathedral but it now starts and finishes in the heart of the city’s historic centre. The racing in that history laden section is not very long, a few kilometres at most, but it’s brutal with the one in six slopes of the cobbled Michaelgate/Wordsworth Lane climb.

The rest of the circuit is a twisting, turning, rolling circuit done 13 times by the men, something it’s done for most of the years I have been coming here, and 8 times by the women (run since 2015). The only variation of this was for the British Road Race Championships in 2015 when, the women’s race was added to the day’s racing, and the circuit now used was more a finishing circuit on that day.

The women have raced the Lincoln GP circuit since 2015 and local girl Rebecca Durrell has won twice already

The 2020 edition of the race will be the fifth for Dan Ellmore who admits it was easier going into organising the race as it was already a going concern rather than starting from scratch. Dan has a long association with the race having ridden it and worked on it when Ian Emmerson was the organiser. During the 15 to 20 years he was a volunteer on the race, he did all sorts of random things like being a marshal and chief marshal, driving the lead car, helped with the rider number packs and doing copious amounts of photocopying.

When asked was he not put off by knowing how much work went into organising the race, he replied “I thought about it quite a lot and Ian and I had quite a good conversation about it. It wasn’t that I wanted to be an organiser, it came down to the fact I hated the idea of not having a Lincoln GP more than hating the idea of taking on the three months or so to organise it.”

Some organisers of long running events I have spoken to have said that their event almost organises itself but Dan says that whilst it may appear to do that from the outside, it doesn’t. “From the outside, it probably appears like that, and that actually causes issues like this year when we were looking for sponsorship. There was a danger it may not run and we’d go and talk to businesses and they go, ‘oh, that’s been around since the dinosaurs’ and ‘it runs every year whether it needs sponsors or not’.”

The steep slopes of Michaelgate with cobbles to add to the challenge

“The fact it’s always been here, they kind of hide behind that and say ‘you don’t need us’ and ‘it will be fine’. So having been around a long time actually does cause those type of issues. And we know we can’t afford to fail because of its history so you have to make it work”.

The race also needs the help of the local authorities. Dan explains that before he took over the organising, Ian had to ‘bull doze’ things through to keep the race going. He adds, “I also know, for a few years before Ian’s last one, they (the authorities) did an economic survey and that turned the opinion of the local authority and instead of being a traffic flow disaster for the city on the day, it became an economic benefit to the city that was measured by approved standards and a set figure could be shown as to what the race does for the city.”

“Suddenly, there was a big change in the mind-set from them and they are now supportive. We still get charged for the road closures and all those kind of things but they also give us some small financial help as well but if they didn’t want it, they would find a way of us not having it”.

Surprisingly, given the crowds we see at the race, Dan says the race is not as well known to the locals, as it is to those in the sport of cycling. “I would say only 20% I know from Lincoln know it. If I said to them ‘did you know this race started in 1956 and is the only race that has run every year since then’, they would go ‘no’”.

Police and marshals on the race helping keep the circuit locked down 

Part of that is down to the lack of good TV coverage. Despite British Cycling’s millions in sponsorship and income from membership, and directors being paid six figure sums, they don’t seem to be able to get coverage of cycling on mainstream television. And I guess local coverage is not as extensive as it should be for an event that is known worldwide.

I asked Dan what effect the sudden and out of the blue decision by British Cycling to axe Eurosport coverage of the National Series events has had for Dan as an organiser. “We were in a position of potentially not running and so we were at the point of negotiating with Rapha who are now the title sponsor, and some other sponsors like MinebeaMitsumi and the issue was we had presented a pdf which had info in it like the effect TV has on the event coverage and we had to go back and say, ‘actually, we don’t have TV anymore so I have to take a million people off that coverage’ and are we still good? We were fortunate we were still good with them and we still have them as event sponsors.”

Dan was keen to point out that he knows just how important the race is to the sport and to those in the city who have given their lives to it. The race has had three organisers and Dan is the third. “Mike Jones organised 10, someone else organised 50 (Ian who was sitting next to Dan LoL) and this year will be my fifth… I won’t make 50 though!”

“It’s a real love hate relationship. For 364 days a year, it’s like, ‘I am going to do it, can we do it, are we going to do it’, and then we have the race and I go ‘that was the best thing ever’. And then I have a week of that was lovely and it’s really good and then I go here we go again!”

The women’s race sees riders from juniors like Alice Towers (Cero Wheels/Cycle Division) to the British Elite champion racing the event

When I learn from Dan what the budget is for the race, it is no wonder that it can be a nightmare trying to keep it on the road when it costs more than it costs me to keep this website going all year. A lot more. The budget is around £45,000 for two races on one day.

“We need eight officials vehicles and we get those free but we have to put drivers in those, same drivers for both races but different commissiares so we have seven in each race and with that comes the expenses for travel and hotels. Eight NEG and so there is travel and hotels for them too. Then we run six police bike’s, two police cars, 60 stewards, officers on the ground; the costs are huge.”

“When we looked at the financial gap we had this year, one of the conversations was why not take it into the Wolds and that lasted 30 seconds because that would be Tour of the Wolds and Lincoln is Lincoln and if you take it out of Lincoln, it isn’t the Lincoln GP.”

Probably the most ecstatic winner I’ve seen, Dean Downing in 2007 beating Kiwi Gordon McCauley to the line 

The events …
The Newells Michaelgate Hill Dash (Saturday night) – “it’s an uphill sprint on Michaelgate using the same finish line as the Grand Prix. It starts 10 yards short of the climb because we can’t close Hungate and Spring hill (both intersect with Michaelgate at the bottom of the hill) to have a holding area.

Once we have worked out who goes through from the heats, it’s four riders at time, two through to a semi final and final and the sponsor this year wants it to be winner takes all and it’s £1,000 for the men and the women as well. We did the event in 2015 and 2017 and it was very popular with enormous crowds and an (army) tank with a DJ on it”. (Lincoln is seen as the birth place of the Tank).

Dan also explained how they will also have a bike night. “We’ve been doing that for five years since the road nationals and we do two or three a year where we try and get a cycling film and a Q & A and so we have Russell Downing (4 time winner) coming over and I’ll do a Q&A with him. The Saturday morning sees the event’s sportive over four distances and which also finishes on Michaelgate.”

Dan was keen to stress that the race also benefits from the sportive entries.

When asked though does the race get support from British Cycling, he replied “there is a support package like the event truck, barriers, chip timing etc but sometimes when the budget is so tight, and you look at what they provide as not being necessary for the race, there is that thought that if there was the option, we’d take the cash instead.”

Four (one obscured) faces that I’ve since at the race since it started

Memories and highlights
A highlight of the race for Dan is that the event has become a race that everyone talks about. He remembers how when Paul Curran was winning it, part of the mighty Manchester Wheelers, it was almost as if the riders in that team were racing each other for the win.

“Curran and Daryl Webster were away a lot in the Lincoln and aggressive riders. When there was team Brite, if you didn’t get in the move with team Brite, you’d had it. They’d have three in everything and were so strong”.

“I rode it three or four times and was rubbish but I can still remember the hairs on the back of my neck going up as I rode up Michaelgate because of the adrenalin from the atmosphere there. So I know what the riders go through. I do know if there are a lots of people shouting your name, you don’t feel anything and then you get to Bailgate (narrow lane that follows the finish) and there’s no noise and you’re trying to do 35mph and the legs are saying, ‘we’re really sore’ and the head wants to explode!”

When pressed for some more memories of the race he now organises, Dan explained “the last time I rode, I wanted to finish and knew for me to do that, I was going to have to do a ‘ride’ and so from January 1st, I’d done 5000 miles here and around work. I thought I was in decent shape and remember afterwards looking at my heart rate monitor and saw a new max HR first time up. I lasted so many laps but never finished”.

“I also remember going over the top of the climb on the wheel of Dave Williams who was riding for Team Ambrosia (the rice pudding) and I was like thinking, ‘he’s a pro and I’m on his wheel’ and also ‘he’s making a hole in the air for me and if I can stay here, I’ll be fine’ and then he waved his elbow and looked at me! I was like ‘sorry Dave I’ve ruined your race LOL …”.

Dan then explained how the race transforms a little back lane in Lincoln into an iconic piece of road for the best riders in the country to go elbow to elbow on. “It is so amazing. It’s a little back lane and people say to me, ‘I’m not walking up that, it’s really steep’ but on race day, there is no room on the pavement”.

“And no matter where you drive in the convoy, everyone is waving and cheering. So I think it’s amazing that cycling can turn a small city lane back lane into such an auditorium for sport. And it’s the bit the riders want to come to. I speak to those who have ridden Lincoln, and that’s the bit they talk about”.

Dan is also ‘proud’ to say that champions like Brad Wiggins, Geraint Thomas, Roger Hammond, Ben Swift (current RR champion) and Mark Cavendish have ridden but not won it. “I do like how Russell came every year and wanted more than four because he’s pretty local. When you look at the back of the trophy and the winners over the years, it’s phenomenal so many champions haven’t won it and I almost like that fact more than the actual list of winners.”

Finally, there was talk, rumours even, of how in 2021 there were/are going to be more UCI events in the UK calendar. Being a UCI event is not new to the Lincoln GP and it was for several years a UCI 1.2. “I would love it to be UCI again” says Dan. “I think it should be because of its reputation. It’s a race everyone in Britain wants to do it so why wouldn’t those outside of Britain? It’s about money though. We have the ambition but not the money.”

And that is the story of many a race in Britain but if any race deserves a huge sponsor to launch it into the big time, bigger than before, it is the Lincoln Grand Prix. Should the race have been a ‘proper’ monument, ie, part of the pro racing circus in Europe, the atmosphere of the race in Lincoln would be out of this world and well deserved.

The par cour is there, the crowds would certainly come. It just needs a mega big sponsor to give it that status it deserves. Thanks to Dan for the chat. Part two will be with Ian Emmerson …

… continued after advert with the podiums since the beginning


Lincoln GP Podiums
(thanks to Jim Hendry, Archivist)

1. Bob Eastwood
2. Tony Hewsons
3. Nev Cranes

1. Ron Coe
2. Dave Bedwell @ 50s
3 Syd Wilson @ 4.42

1. Ron Coe
2. Dave Bedwells
3. Dick Bartrops

1. Ron Coe
2. Bill Bradleys
3. Harry Reynolds

1. John Perks
2. Brian Trippett @ 2.20
3. Derek Holmes @ 3.10

1. John Perks
2. Ken Hill @ 1.20
3. Dave Bedwell @ 5.05

1. Jim Grieves
2. Owen Davies
3. Alan Linforths

1. Albert Hitchen
2. Bernard Burns @ 2.20
3. Stan Brittain st

1. Albert Hitchen
2. Derek Harrison @ 26s
3. Arthur Durham @ 2.23

1. Arthur Durham
2. Doug Dailey @ 7s
3. Roger Claridge @ 1.10

1. John Clarey
2. Brian Rourke st
3. Owen Davies st

1. Des Thompson Nzl
2. Pete Callan @ 14s
3. Roger Hobby st (long time MC on the race)

1. Doug Dailey
2. Les West st
3. Graham Owen st

1. Pete Smith
2. Malc Foster @ 1.51
3. Ian Hallam @ 1.53

1. Tom Mullins
2. Tony Gornall st
3. Ian Hallam st

1. Dave Allen
2. Howard Walmesley
3. Paul Newbury

1. Phil Edwards
2. Phil Bayton st
3. Alan Clarke @ 5s

1. Dave Vose
2. John Clewarth st
3. Peter Watson st

1. Steve Heffernan
2. John Patson
3. Ian Hallam

1. Tony Gornall
2. John Kenworth
3. Dave Broadbent

1. Bill Nickson
2. Joe Waugh
3. Steve Lawrence

1. Dave Cuming
2. Steve Lawrence
3. Phil Griffiths

1. Steve Lawrence
2. Robert Melrose @ 18s
3. Bob Downs

1. Geoff Taylor
2. Dave Grindley
3. Steve Joughin

1. Steve Joughin
2. Joe Waugh
3. Mick Davies

1. Phil Thomas
2. Mark Bell
3. Joe Waugh

1. Mark Bell
2. Bob Downs
3. John Cavanagh

1. Malcolm Elliott
2. Mick Davies
3. Dave Lloyd

1. Neil Martin
2. Chris Whorton
3. Peter Sanders

1. Darryl Webster
2. Pete Saunders
3. Pete Longbottom

1. Paul Curran
2. Stuart Coles
3. Daryl Webster

1. Paul Curran
2. Daryl Webster
3. Stuart Coles

1. Paul Curran
2. Mark Gornall
3. Ben Luckwell

1. Mark Gornall
2. Ben Luckwell
3. Nigel Bishop

1. Brian Smith
2. Pete Longbottom
3. Norman Dunn

1. Paul Curran
2. Dave Spencer
3. Mark Gornall

1. John Charlesworth
2. John Tanner
3. Mark McKay

1. Keith Reynolds
2. Tim Hall
3. Shane Sutton

1. Chris Walker
2. John Tanner
3. Roger Hammond

1. Mark Walsham
2. Chris Newton
3. Roger Hammond

1. Kevin Dawson
2. Paul Curran
3. Joe Bayfield

1. John Tanner
2. Chris Walker
3. Simeon Hempsall

1. Chris Lillywhite
2. Chris Newton
3. Matt Beckett

1. Saulius Ruskis
2. John Tanner
3. Ciaron Power

1. Chris Newton
2. John Tanner
3. Paul Manning

1. John Tanner
2. Julian Winn
3. Matt Stephens

1. Huw Pritchard
2. Bradley Wiggins
3. Paul Redenbach

1. Mark Lovatt
2. Gordon McCauley Nzl
3. Malcolm Elliott

1. David O’Loughlin
2. Robin Sharman
3. Malcolm Elliott

1. Russell Downing
2. Dean Downing
3. Malcolm Elliott

1. Kristian House
2. Paul Healion
3. Matt Talbot Nzl

1. Dean Downing
2. Gordon McCauley
3. Russell Downing

1. Russell Downing
2. Dean Downing
3. Simon Richardson

1. Russell Downing
2. Ian Wilkinson
3. Chris Newton

1. Chris Newton
2. Philip Lavery
3. Simon Richardson

1. Scott Thwaites
2. Ian Bibby
3. Jonny McEvoy

1. Russell Downing
2. Marcin Bialoblocki
3. Kristian House

1. Peter Kennaugh
2. Marcin Bialoblocki
3. Lachlan Norris

1. Yanto Barker
2. Mike Northey
3. Marcin Bialoblocki


1. Peter Kennaugh
2. Mark Cavendish
3. Ian Stannard

1. Elizabeth Armitstead
2. Alice Barnes
3. Laura Trott


1 Tom Stewart
2 Russell Downing
3 Ian Bibby

1. Alice Barnes
2. Rebecca Durrell
3. Laura Massey


1. Ian Bibby
2. Rory Townsend
3. Matthew Holmes

1. Alice Barnes
2. Emily Nelson
3. Lydia Boylan

1. Alexandar Richardson
2. Andrew Tennant
3. Alistair Slater

1. Rebecca Durrell
2. Anna Henderson
3. Nicola Juniper


1. Thomas Stewart
2. Thomas Pidcock
3. Andrew Tennant

1. Rebecca Durrell
2. Jessica Roberts
3. Joscelin Lowden


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