The first round of the Men’s National Series and second round of the Women’s National Series kicks off this weekend at the esteemed Rapha Lincoln Grand Prix, presented by Wattbike.
With a rich fabled history, a spectator-friendly circuit that runs through the heart of historic Lincoln, and a steep cobbled climb as its centrepiece, the race is cherished by riders, teams and fans alike.
The Grand Prix was first held all the way back in 1956 and the list of past winners features many of the greats of domestic road racing. In the men's race, these include four-time winners Paul Curran and Russell Downing, as well as Chris Walker, Brian Smith, Steve Joughin, Chris Lillywhite, Dean Downing, Peter Kennaugh, Tom Stewart and Ian Bibby. The women’s race, which began in 2016, has been won twice each by Becky Durrell and Alice Barnes, while Lizzie Deignan won in 2015 when the race hosted the National Road Championships.
Last year, under glorious spring sunshine, the winners were Scot Becky Storrie (then of CAMS-Basso, now at Team DSM) and American Luke Lamperti of TRINITY Racing.
The cream of the domestic peloton take on a 13-kilometre circuit that starts and finishes in the beautiful Castle Square in the heart of Lincoln. The women’s race covers eight laps of the circuit, with the men taking on 13 laps. It makes the race a spectator’s dream – stay all day and you can watch the race pass 21 times from different vantage points, from Castle Square down to the foot of Michaelgate.
Michaelgate is the centrepiece of the circuit. The steep, narrow, cobbled climb leads the riders up to the finish in Castle Square. With a brick wall on one side and buildings on the other, it was a wall of noise at the National Road Championships in 2021 as spectators jammed onto the pavements either side of the cobbles – an experience every racing fan should experience on Grand Prix day.
The climb itself is short at around 200 metres, but it averages 12.9% and towards the top, the gradients are over 20% according to Veloviewer.com. The fast run-in to the bottom of Michaelgate is as important as the climb itself as riders fight to be at the front, wary of getting caught out behind a crash or mechanical. Get left behind here and it could be race over.
Michaelgate leads directly onto the twisty finishing ‘straight’ on Castle Square, also cobbled, meaning the final ascent often comes down to a battle royale between whoever is left at the front of the race.
Any domestic rider worth their salt wants to win Lincoln, so the provisional startlist is unsurprisingly stacked.
The men’s race looks set to feature UCI Continental team, TRINITY Racing Team, while Saint Piran, also puts forward a very strong line-up, including recent Ringerike Grand Prix winner Jack Rootkin-Gray and previous Lincoln Grand Prix victor Alex Richardson. Irish road race champion Rory Townsend (Black Spoke Pro Cycling Academy) brings some ProTeam glamour to the race too.
The UCI riders will be up against in-form domestic riders such as Cycling’s Sheffield’s James McKay (on the podium at the CiCLE Classic), three-time National B road race winner this year Ollie Peckover (trainSharp), new ROKiT-SRCT signing Matthew Teggart, Yorkshire U23 Classic winner Jenson Young (also ROKiT-SRCT), last year’s CiCLE Classic winner Finn Crockett (Spokes Racing) and the duo of Toby Barnes and Sam Culverwell (both Dolan Ellesse RT).
The line-up is just as strong in the women’s race as all three British UCI Continental teams take part, including ANEXO/CAMS CiCLE Classic winner and current National Road Series leader, Jessica Finney (AWOL O’Shea), and 2022 National Road Series winner Sammie Stuart (DAS-Handsling). Stuart’s teammate Monica Greenwood has been in scintillating form in Europe of late. Lifeplus-Wahoo brings a strong trio of riders including April Tacey, who has frequently excelled in National Road Series races in the past.
Junior sensation Cat Ferguson – a two-time junior Nations Cup winner this season already - lines up with her talented Shibden Hope Tech Apex team. Hutchinson-Brother UK, arguably the domestic team of the year so far, bring an accomplished squad, as do the ever-strong local outfit Pro-Noctis – Heidi Kjeldsen – 200 Degrees Coffee. 2022 Lancaster Grand Prix winner Mary Wilkinson (Team Boompods) is another rider to watch.
The women’s race begins with a neutralised start at 9.00 and has an estimated finish time of 12.00. The men’s race then follows at 13.00, with an approximate finish of 16.45. Follow all the action through British Cycling’s social media channels.
For a more in-depth preview, head to The British Continental website.