With just over 2 weeks to go before the Lincoln Cycling Festival final preparations are being made to ensure the ongoing success of the Lincoln Grand Prix and the brand new Lincoln Grand Prix Sportive.
The inaugural Lincoln Grand Prix Sportive on Saturday May 7th currently has an entry of 238 for the 94 mile circuit around Lincolnshire's countryside which includes some sharp climbs in the Lincolnshire Wolds. Entries for the 55 mile route for the not quite so brave stand at 150 but both events bring the riders to the finish line in Castle Square via the 1 in 6 cobbled Michaelgate climb, a real sting in the tail. We hope they all enjoy this taste of Lincolnshire and are in the crowd at Sunday's Grand Prix.
All the UK's top teams are present in the 160 strong start list for Sunday's 56th Annual Lincoln Grand Prix and the race is back on its usual circuit through Bailgate, now restored to health following its surface make over last year. The 2009 record average speed could be challenged, the 86 miles covered at 27.5 miles per hour, quite a feat considering the 11 climbs of Michaelgate and Long Leys Road. The home teams all have their best riders here and will be fighting hard for the Premier Calendar points and a share of the £4,230 prize list.
The race is missing last year's winner Chris Newton who has now retired from top class competition to take on a coaching role and with the Sky team not now allowed to take part in national races there could well be a new name on the Roy Hart Trophy this year. The team from Ireland is back in strength with 2010 runner up Phil Lavery specially released from his foreign team commitments to ride the Grand Prix and taking up the Number 1 position on the programme. We also have Sweden's Magnus Backstedt, a former Paris – Roubaix winner, leading a strong UK Youth team and the Rapha Condor Sharp team with the Rutland CiCle Classic winner Zak Dempster and 2010 Omnium Track Champion Ed Clancy. Motorpoint's Marcin Bialoblocki and Jimmy McEvoy will also need watching after being 3rd and 4th at Rutland. Whilst foreign teams are not as numerous as usual a quick look through the entries will find 34 riders from outside of Great Britain.
The race again features the Brian Cossavella Michaelgate Trophy. This was won in 2009 and 2010 by the race winner and provides an added dimension to the race and a tribute to a well known and hard working cycling official and organiser. Michaelgate is by no means an easy climb in the later stages of the race as the lactate starts to build up in the leg muscles but you can be assured of a strong tussle for the points on each lap.
The rapid descent and the right angle bends in the picturesque village of Burton are always a popular vantage point for viewing the race. This year the race coincides with the West Lindsey Open Churches Festival and the Church of St Vincents on the hillside is arranging a flower festival and offering tea, coffee and soft drinks from 10.30 am. All are welcome to call in to view this beautiful church with its lovely stained glass windows and the coronation chairs from the last 3 coronations which are located in the Monson Gallery or to walk round the churchyard with its many plants and flowers.
The major viewing areas are certainly around the Michaelgate climb and through Castle Square in to Bailgate where the race heads out of the City via the Roman Newport Arch. The Castle Square area again has extra events with British Cycling's WATT bikes providing a means to test physical outputs and compare these to British Cycling's national squad members. Alongside this there will be Lincolnshire Sports Partnership's bike 4 life stand, the usual Bits for Bikes area, a clothing stall by Impsport and the popular Smoothies bar. Across the other side of the Square the Lincolnshire Farmers' Market is back with stands serving up some interesting snacks with Ostrich and Venison Burgers very popular. Audi Lincolnshire, one of our race vehicle suppliers, also have a new car display with staff on hand to talk to those who need four wheels as well as a bike.
In 2010 the organisation introduced events for younger riders with a Michaelgate Hill Climb Challenge. British Cycling have now taken over this idea by organising Go-ride events with an inter-schools competition. Riders from four schools start at the Grand Prix finish line and after a small circuit based on Bailgate, Eastgate, Minster Yard and Exchequergate come back to the finish line. These are short events taking place in between the early laps of the Grand Prix and will provide some exciting racing for young riders and great photos with the Lincoln Cathedral as a magnificent backdrop.
County Conference & Events lead the 2011 sponsorship for the third year with the City of Lincoln Council and the University of Lincoln providing additional sponsorship of the budget needed to organise this major event on the British road race calendar. They are backed up by our other local sponsors who support the event each year and our thanks also go to them for their continued support. Television is back for the eighth time with the event again being recorded for Eurosport.