Russell Downing secured his fourth victory in the Lincoln Grand Prix when he won the 2012 event by 15 seconds from Marcin Bialoblocki.
The Endura Racing rider from Rotherham took victory after attacking at the bell, and although Node 4 rival Marcin Bialoblocki caught him halfway round the last of 13 circuits, Downing dropped him again at the foot of the cobbled Michaelgate climb and took the win in front of a massive crowd lining the streets of Lincoln city centre by 15 seconds.
Downing was part of a five-rider group which had gone clear with four laps remaining, along with Bialoblocki and Simon Richardson (IG Sigma Sport), Kristian House (Rapha Condor-Sharp) and Russell Hampton (Raleigh-GAC).
But Downing, who won the Lincoln Grand Prix in 2009, 2008 and 2005, held his nerve until the bell lap when he attacked up Michaelgate to roars of approval from a packed crowd lining the narrow street which takes the riders into the historic heart of Lincoln.
The early part of the race was dominated by a large break of between 20-40 riders as the pace began to increase and separate the strong riders. And even in these early stages Downing was in the mix, biding his time while others used up valuable energy.
Rapha Condor-Sharp’s Kristian House was first over the Michaelgate climb frequently, as he made an ultimately successful bid for the Brian Cossavella Challenge prime prize.
Absent from the early thrusts for glory, the 100% ME team drove a chase led by Yorkshireman Tom Moses and virtually pulled back the leaders, but they didn’t quite mop up them all and another group formed which quickly gained 1:20 with representatives from most of the major teams.
The eighth time over the climb House led from Downing, and the pair looked likely to break off the front with the rest of the leaders around four seconds back.
The remains of the bunch were now around four minutes back, and with four laps left to winner was looking likely to come from this group.
A large and fluid group of 20 something riders was eventually more clearly defined with four laps to go, when the decisive five-rider break went clear and quickly saw their initial gap of about 20 seconds grow to more than a minute and a half within one more circuit.
Richardson led Downing over the Michaelgate climb with three laps to go, and while the others were clinging on it all looked too much for Russell Hampton who was losing contact, while behind him Tom Moses (100% ME) and Premier Calendar leader Scott Thwaites (Endura Racing) were leading a chase, about a minute back.
Hampton showed true grit by managing to claw his way back to the leading five, only for Downing to put the hammer down again as they tackled Michaelgate for the penultimate time. The punchy Endura rider flew up the cobbles creating distance between him and his rivals, giving the crowds just what they had travelled to Lincoln to see, aggressive attacking bike racing.
Gap gained, Downing dug in for one more lap and although Bialoblocki caught him Downing looked confident of shelling him again on the final climb. Sure enough, Downing managed to reach the finish in Castle Square with 15 seconds to spare over Bialoblocki in second, while House took third (1:18 back) from Simon Richardson (@ 1:21) and Russell Hampton (@1:28).
Last year's winner and Downing’s team-mate, Scott Thwaites finished ninth and was best Under-23, securing enough points to ensure he still leads the Premier Calendar overall.
What the riders said
Race winner Russell Downing, who has equalled Paul Curran’s record of four victories in the Lincoln Grand Prix, said: “I’m delighted to win the Lincoln Grand Prix, this is the biggest race in the country with the best crowds. They were all shouting my name and it’s a brilliant backdrop in Lincoln too. It’s always a pleasure to come and ride here. I grew up watching this race and I've got lots of support, although most of my mates were stood outside the pubs with pints, I'm going to join them now to celebrate".
“It’s been a hard fast race. The other teams are all working hard to try and dislodge Endura Racing from dominating the Premier Calendar, and they are getting closer and closer. the IG Sigma Sport and Node 4 guys did a great job attacking us today, Raleigh are getting their riders in breaks and the whole thing is getting more professional. But Endura is a team of winning riders and we are showing that we have someone for every race”.
Second placed rider Marcin Bialoblocki spoke to British Cycling at the finish, "On the bell lap coming up through the cobbles Russ Downing showed his strength and I knew I was racing for second, I was feeling good and knew I could again catch him on the flat section, but when we got to the cobbles with 1km to go I knew it would be hard to beat him on the climb".
"Our team has worked hard today and I'm pleased to get second, I don't know how we are going to beat Endura in the next races, but we will keep trying and one day we will win".
Winner of the Brian Cossavella Michaelgate Challenge trophy and prize money for best climber of the tortuous cobbled section, Rapha Condor Sharp rider Kristian House also claimed the third podium position. British Cycling asked him at the finish if it was his intention to blow the race apart by attacking the climb every lap?
"In the early laps I wasn't attacking at all, I was just making sure I stayed out of trouble, I was at the front and got the first couple of primes, so after that I made sure I just got the points as much as I could. The people at the front just ride their own pace, the guys behind might ease off a little and it gives the impression I'm attacking. But there is a natural selection of the group and the guys at the front get to ride the tempo they are comfortable with".
"Later in the race Russ and I did attack up the climb but we still rode at our own pace, this race is much easier if you are at the front dictating. I always enjoy Lincoln, the crowds are unbelievable, there is massive support and it lifts you, but Russ Downing deserves this win today, he was the strongest rider and proved that in the last couple of laps, I thought maybe I was riding for second but I'm happy to get on the podium and win the climbers trophy".
Last year's Lincoln winner and current leader of the British Cycling Premier Calendar series Scott Thwaites (Endura) was 9th and won the best under 23 category, BC asked him if his winning streak had ended now that he'd gone for the clean shaven look?
Jokingly he told us, "I know maybe I should grow it back, it brought me winners luck".
Talking about the Endura team effort at Lincoln Scott said, "Russ got the win today for the team and that is good, it keeps the momentum going and keeps the morale and confidence high. This race has got to be the best in the country, it's an amazing race to be in, the crowds are the biggest, this cobbled climb is the best and most challenging climb we race on and to have the crowd right in your face is a brilliant experience".
BC asked Scott where he saw the challenge to Endura coming from, "There are a lot of strong teams, UK Youth are good at putting the pressure on, IG Sigma Sport are getting stronger and attacking us, but Endura is a very strong team and we have shown again today that we have riders who can win all the races, it makes it more interesting for us if we get challenged, I'm enjoying this season it's great to be part of this squad".
1 3 Russell Downing Endura Racing 03:55:38
2 73 Marcin Bialoblocki NODE4 Giordana Racing 15sec
3 97 Kristian House Rapha Condor Sharp 01:18
4 52 Simon Richardson Team IG Sigmasport 01:21
5 96 Russell Hampton Team Raleigh – GAC 01:28
6 78 Pete Williams NODE4 Giordana Racing 02:38
7 58 Dan Craven Team IG Sigmasport 02:44
8 7 Dean Windsor Endura Racing 02:47
9 1 Scott Thwaites Endura Racing U23 02:50
10 89 Liam Holohan Team Raleigh – GAC st
11 8 Ian Wilkinson Endura Racing st
12 101 Andy Tennant Rapha Condor Sharp st
13 55 Peter Hawkins Team IG Sigmasport 02:59
14 77 Matt Cronshaw NODE4 Giordana Racing 03:03
15 64 Marcel Six Metaltek SCOTT 03:05
16 76 Mike Northey NODE4 Giordana Racing 03:07
17 132 Ben Greenwood Vanillabikes.com st
18 122 Christofer Stevenson Team UK Youth Pro Cycling st
19 15 Thomas Moses 100% ME U23 03:20
20 99 Richard Lang Rapha Condor Sharp 03:25
21 123 David McGowan Team UK Youth Pro Cycling 03:41
22 93 Bernard Sulzberger Team Raleigh – GAC 06:40
23 109 Tom Stewart RST Racing Team U23 08:43
24 95 Tobyn Horton Team Raleigh – GAC st
25 91 Evan Oliphant Team Raleigh – GAC st
26 74 David Clarke NODE4 Giordana Racing 08:49
27 154 Colin Parry Willier/Live2Ride st
28 92 Matthew Holmes Team Raleigh – GAC U23 08:51
29 35 Will Bjergfelt Cycle Premier – Kovert 08:56
30 43 Robbie Hassan Herbalife-Leisure Lakes Bikes U23 09:00
31 65 Dale Appleby Metaltek SCOTT 09:03
32 28 Roy Chamberlain Team Corley Cycles/Blue st
33 100 Chris Jennings Rapha Condor Sharp U23 st
34 79 Matt Higgins NODE4 Giordana Racing st
35 108 Matt Sumpton RST Racing Team U23 09:11
36 13 Samuel Harrison 100% ME U23 09:14
37 120 Niklas Gustavsson Team UK Youth Pro Cycling 09:41
38 68 Rhys Lloyd Metaltek SCOTT 09:53
39 62 David Nichols Loughborough Students CC U23 10:18
40 165 Luke Dunbar Performance Cycles CM1 U23 U23 10:22
41 14 Alistair Slater 100% ME U23 st
42 11 Simon Yates 100% ME U23 10:25
43 10 George Atkins 100% ME U23 10:27
44 125 Gruff Lewis Team UK Youth Pro Cycling st
45 71 Matt Gee Metaltek SCOTT U23 st
46 45 Richard Bott Herbalife-Leisure Lakes Bikes st
47 16 Owain Doull 100% ME U23 st
48 112 Rob Sharman Sportscover Altura Racing Team st
49 33 George Moore Cycle Premier – Kovert U23 10:32
50 134 Alistair Rutherford Vanillabikes.com 10:34
51 61 Jamie Burgan Langsett Cycles Racing Team st
52 150 Stuart Reid Wheelbase.co.uk/MGD st
53 5 Erick Rowsell Endura Racing U23 10:37
54 75 Rico Rogers NODE4 Giordana Racing st
55 86 Tom Stockdale Primal Europe U23 st
56 17 Perry Bowater ASFRA Racing Team U23 st
57 12 Joseph Kelly 100% ME U23 10:42
58 26 Matthew Jones Team Corley Cycles/Blue 10:44
59 159 William Fox Zappi's Pro Cycling 10:47
60 144 Robert Smail Teamwallis-chh.com st
61 48 Jamie Shirlaw Herbalife-Leisure Lakes Bikes U23 10:51
62 42 Andrew Hawdon Herbalife-Leisure Lakes Bikes 11:25
63 44 Andrew Coupe Herbalife-Leisure Lakes Bikes st
64 131 Rhys Howells Twenty3C.co.uk-Orbea 11:33
65 118 J Williams Team UK Youth Pro Cycling 11:39
66 139 Dan Smith Velo 29 OTR Vankru 11:52
67 39 George Harper Felt-Colbornes Racing Team U23 15:24
68 37 Blair Windsor Cycle Premier – Kovert 15:57
University of Lincoln Under-23 Award:
1 1 Scott Thwaites Endura Racing U23
2 15 Thomas Moses 100% ME U23
3 109 Tom Stewart RST Racing Team U23
The Brian Cossavella Michaelgate Trophy:
1 97 Kristian House Rapha Condor Sharp 32
2 3 Russell Downing Endura Racing 22
3 52 Simon Richardson Team IG Sigmasport 5
4 73 Marcin Bialoblocki NODE4 Giordana Racing 4
5 1 Scott Thwaites Endura Racing 3
6 58 Dan Craven Team IG Sigmasport 2
7 55 Peter Hawkins Team IG Sigmasport 2
8 53 Tom Murray Team IG Sigmasport 2
British Cycling would like to thank the organising team, officials and everyone else who helped promote this event. Our sport could not exist without the hundreds of people, many of them unpaid volunteers, who put in many hours of hard work running events, activities and clubs.