Representatives of some of the top British professional cycling teams gathered today along with sponsors, supporters and a few stars of years gone by to get the countdown underway to the 2012 Stafford GP, the third running of the event started in 2010 as part of the British Cycling Elite Circuit Series.
Above: Ben Grenda (Rapha Condor Sharp), Anne Graham (Guildhall Shopping Centre), Andrew Magnier (Node4-Giordana), Chris Lewis (Lewis Partnership), Ian Wilkinson (Endura), Jane Davidson (Claremont Hospital), Councillor Stan Highﬁeld, Liam Hollohan (Raleigh), Lisa Clemson (Stafford Town Centre Partnership), Kristian House (Rapha Condor Sharp), John Burton (Henry Burton), Russell Falder (Cycle Premier). (Image: AbandonedBicycle Photography)
Last year's race brought good weather and a great crowd to the town to witness a dominant performance from the Rapha Condor Sharp team with three out of the group of four who dominated the race coming from the team known as ‘The Men in Black’. This year’s race however, looks to be a much more open affair as organiser Paul Rowlands of Leadout Cycling Ltd explained:
“Rapha Condor Sharp have lost national champ Graham Briggs to Raleigh and last year’s winner Dean Windsor has gone to Endura, so it’ll be a much more open race on paper at least. That said, Dean Downing has to be wondering if it’ll be third time lucky as he’s been on the podium both years but missed out on the win on each occasion.”
Amongst the teams who were present for the launch today were Raleigh, Node4-Giordana, Endura, Cycle Premier and Rapha Condor Sharp, all of whom have promised to send strong teams to the race this July.
Both the schedule and the course for the event this year are changed slightly this year with hand cycling making its debut in the programme of racing alongside the schools racing and under 16 race that all form part of the build up to the main event when the professionals take to the streets. Meanwhile the course for the event, whilst largely the same with its start/finish in the market square now sees the riders race along Mill Bank instead of Mill Street before turning into the finish straight along Greengate Street. A full map of the circuit can be viewed by clicking here:
For the town of Stafford the Stafford GP has now become an important cultural as well as sporting occasion, making an important contribution to the proﬁle and economy of the town as the The Worshipful the Mayor of Stafford Borough, Councillor Stan Highﬁeld explained:
Mayor of Stafford Borough, Councillor Stan Highﬁeld, said: "Having the bike race in Stafford brings new faces to the town and helps to show a wider audience what a lovely and vibrant place it is. As well as being a brilliant evening of top quality bike racing, the event is good for our economy as the spectators, cyclists, and members of the teams who stay in the town will be using the shops, cafes and other facilities. It has become a welcome feature on the annual sporting calendar in Stafford Borough."
For the ﬁrst time, this year’s Stafford GP has secured a title sponsor. Claremont Hospital works with a number of primary care trusts in the region and through its sports medicine and performance centre (csmapc.com) is already a sponsor of the sport. Jane Davidson of Claremont hospital explained why they chose to support the race: “Stafford GP is a great community event and as a business we wanted to show the people of Stafford what a great place we think it is and show how much we value our relationship with the town. Having seen over 350 patients and performed around 180 neuro-spinal operations on patients from Stafford, it’s nice as a business to be able to put something back into the local community as well as raising the profile of the speciﬁc services we provide to athletes like the ones you’ll see here in July”
As well as the real launch of the event in the Market Square, today also saw the new Stafford GP website launched, head to www.staffordgp.co.uk to ﬁnd all the latest on the event and follow via Twitter and Facebook at the same time to ensure you have access to all the news as it happens.