This weekend, the domestic peloton swaps its attention from the National Circuit Series to the National Road Series as it heads to the rolling hills of the Forest of Bowland for the Lancaster Grand Prix.
Now in its fourth year, the race the has quickly established itself as one of the most prestigious and best-organised one-day races on the UK road racing calendar. This year, the race forms Round 3 of the Women’s National Road Series, and Round 2 of the men’s series. National Road Series leaders Monica Greenwood (DAS-Handsling) and Alex Richardson (Saint Piran) both feature as part of stacked fields for the women’s and men’s editions.
Dubbed a British equivalent of an Ardennes equivalent, the puncheur-friendly route starts and finishes in the beautiful surrounds of Williamson Park by the iconic Ashton Memorial. Spectators basing themselves here will be treated to a festival vibe with a food market and a big screen showing the racing from the circuit among the attractions.
Rolling out of the park, the riders then take on a challenging 14.8km circuit featuring 273m of elevation per lap. With three sharp climbs per lap in store, the course is a selective one. The women’s race features six tours of the circuit and the men's race has ten. In total, the women's race is 92 kilometres long, while the men cover 152 kilometres.
On the final lap, the course heads back to Williamson Park for the final kilometre back to the finish line, where the riders are treated to a final sting in the tail. Between 600m and 500m to go, the gradient reaches double digits before a technical, slightly uphill final 500m. If a small group reaches this finale together, positioning will be as important as finding enough reserves of strength in the legs to power home to the win.
You can watch last year’s National Road Series winner Sammie Stuart (DAS-Handsling) recce the course here.
Riders to watch
In the men’s race, National Road Series leader Richardson is backed by a strong Saint Piran team, including Zeb Kyffin and Jack Rootkin-Gray, who joined him on the podium at Round 1 of the series at the Rapha Lincoln Grand Prix. The other UCI Continental team in the race, TRINITY Racing, also has an impressive line-up headed by Lukas Nerurkar and Otley Grand Prix winner Bob Donaldson, who are both UCI road race winners this season.
Thomas Armstrong (Wheelbase CabTech Castelli), Huw Buck-Jones (Wales Racing Academy), former Team Sky rider Alex Peters (Richardsons Trek DAS), Ollie Peckover (trainSharp Elite), George Wood (Cycling Sheffield), and newly crowned Island Games road race winner Sam Culverwell (Dolan Ellesse RT) are among the picks from the elite teams.
Women’s Series leader Greenwood holds just a two point lead over nearest challenger, Rapha Lincoln Grand Prix winner Robyn Clay (Pro-Noctis - Heidi Kjeldsen - 200 Degrees Coffee). Both riders should feature in Lancaster, with every point counting in their battle for Series leadership. Greenwood’s DAS-Handsling team also features last year’s Series winner Stuart, Lucy Lee (a multiple National B road race winner this year), and new recruit Frankie Hall.
Elsewhere on the start list, last year’s winner Mary Wilkinson (Team Boompods) thrives in the hills and will be keen to defend her title. AWOL O’Shea’s Connie Hayes is an excellent climber and is joined by teammate Jess Finney, winner of the Women’s CiCLE Classic this year. Hutchinson-Brother UK’s Tammy Miller is another strong climber. Alex Morrice (CANYON//SRAM) had a breakthrough ride in this race last season, finishing second behind Wilkinson, and the WorldTour rider returns having just completed a dominant win at the recent Guildford Town Centre Races.
Timings and coverage
The men’s race begins at 9.00 and finishes around 12.45, while the women’s start is at 14.45 with an estimated finish of 17.15. You can follow the action on the British Cycling social media channels or, if you make it to Williamson Park, you can watch it on the big screen.
For more a more in-depth preview of the race, as well as the latest start lists, head to The British Continental.