The National Road Series returns with a bang on Sunday 8 May as the iconic Rapha Lincoln Grand Prix presented by Pro-Noctis hosts Round 1.
Contested over seven rounds for women and six for rounds men, the Series will see the UK’s top domestic squads go head-to-head for individual and team honours.
Abi Smith and Jacob Scott were last season’s individual Series winners. Smith’s prowess means she has since moved up to the Women’s WorldTour ranks with EF Education-TIBCO-SVB. Scott, however, will be back to defend his crown alongside a strong WiV SunGod squad, who also won last season’s men’s Series team competition.
Pro-Noctis-Rotor-Redchilli Bikes p/b Heidi Kjeldsen are the defending women’s Series champions having pipped CAMS-Basso to the title by just seven points last year.
As in 2021, the highest placed U23 riders in the individual standings will be given the title of U23 Series winner. With last year’s men’s winner Finn Crockett no longer an U23 and women’s winner Abi Smith moving up to the WorldTour, there will be new winners of both crowns this season.
The first round sees the return of the Rapha Lincoln Grand Prix presented by Pro-Noctis, which so successfully hosted the National Road Championships in October last year. It is arguably the most cherished one-day road race in the UK, a true British classic.
First held in the summer of 1956 – a women’s edition has also run since 2016, after first hosting the National Road Championships in 2015 – it has established itself in British road racing folklore. With the steep cobbled climb of Michaelgate and its kermesse-style circuit, the Grand Prix is often compared to some of the classic Flandrian races. This year’s edition will be the 66th running of the race.
The race has an illustrious list of past winners featuring 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, Pete Kennaugh, Tom Stewart and Ian Bibby, to name but a few. And in the women's race, Becks Durrell and Alice Barnes are both two-time winners, with Lizzie Deignan the winner in the National Championships race in 2015.
This Sunday, the riders will be held on the same 13 km circuit that the race has used since 1987. Starting and finishing in the centre on Castle Square in Lincoln, the men’s race will be contested over 13 laps and the women’s race over 8 laps.
It is a relatively benign ‘kermesse’ style circuit - until the cobbled climb of Michaelgate is factored in. From the start line, the circuit is flat as riders roll north out of Lincoln to the village of Burton-by-Lincoln. As they reach Burton, the riders turn left into a fast descent through the village which eventually leads on to a left-hander onto the A57. Here, if the winds are unfavourable, splits in the bunch can occur with the danger of crosswinds being ever-present.
After the short, shallow ‘feed-zone’ climb along the Long Leys Road comes the fight for positioning before the fast approach to the bottom of Michaelgate. Riders not at the front before the climb have little chance of moving up once the climb begins, and risk being caught behind crashes and splits in the peloton.
Then onto Michaelgate itself, the centrepiece of the circuit. The steep, narrow cobbled climb leads the riders up to the finish in Castle Square. It's short - just 200 metres or so, but it averages 12.9% and towards the top the gradients are over 20% - 27.6% at its steepest according to Veloviewer.com; a wall of 30-45 seconds of flat-out effort. The climb leads onto the twisty finishing ‘straight’ on Castle Square. It is vital that riders get their line right here at the finish if it comes down to a sprint.
The women’s race begins with a neutralised start at 9.00 and has an estimated finish time of 11.45. The men’s race then follows at 13.00, with an approximate finish of 16.45.
Both races feature packed start lists featuring a host of top riders from UCI Continental and Elite Development Teams, including previous Grand Prix winners Becks Durrell (Team Spectra Wiggle p/b Vitus), Alex Richardson and Yanto Barker (Le Col).
For a deeper race preview, head to the website of our Series media partners The British Continental.