Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Gonk and Dork go to a bicycle race

Dominic's bit (Dork)
The latest edition of the Lincoln GP was Sunday 8th May. I've been to watch this bike race several times in the past and have always really enjoyed it. I first watched it in 2004 when David O'Loughlin won it for Team Recycling. It's changed slightly over the last few years, but in its current incarnation it consists of 11 laps each of 8 miles around the city. In previous years it started from the Yarborough sports centre, this year it started from Breedon Drive, just off Burton Road.

As a spectator's event, this race is difficult to beat. You can stand and watch anywhere along the course, and while Vicky and I walked from the start at Breedon Drive over to the Castle Square, we took up several vantage points as the cyclists came past. The cobbled climb of Michaelgate is always packed. This is a steep, leg sapping 1 in 6 climb up to the Castle Square. You can get a great view of the cyclists as they ride up the climb, as they're obviously not riding at full race pace. It never fails to surprise me how quickly they can ride up this steep climb.

I had my daughter Holly with me, and so eventually myself, Vicky and Holly all made it to the Castle Square, where we took it in turns cheering on the riders at the top of the climb on Michaelgate, and looking round the shops in the Castle Square in between laps.

The field consisted of 160 riders, representing over 30 different teams, including international teams and riders. I was particularly excited at the prospect of seeing Magnus Backstedt, a former winner of the extremely tough Paris-Roubaix (nicknamed The Hell of the North). He was riding for Team UK Youth. Each time he rode past me, I shouted out his name. He's quite simply a legend!

In the end, it was Scott Thwaites from Endura Racing who took the honours at the finish, and a very well deserved win it was too. Chapeau Scott!

Here is the full list of winners, and here are some photos I took of the race.

Vicky's bit (Gonk)
This was the first cycling race I have ever watched. If I'm honest I thought it would be a bit boring - but I actually really enjoyed it! Luckily I did not have the issue of where to park - as the start line was only 2 minutes walk from my house! As the race started and the cyclists came speeding out of Breedon Drive, there was a group of about 20 of us there to cheer them on their way. My friend Rob joined us for the first 45 minutes of the race too.

From Breedon Drive, we walked along Burton road to the roundabout just in time to catch the cyclists about to complete lap 1. We then walked briskly down Yarborough hill to the top of Long Leys road, which is a fairly steep climb about halfway through each lap.

I was sat on the edge of a traffic island so I could take some good photographs, and as the riders came up the hill they were maneuvering in and out of the traffic cones which were right in front of me. One of the Irish cyclists was headed straight towards me but veered off to the right at the last second. I know he would never have hit me, but I let out a bit of a yelp!

This is where Rob left us, and me, Dom and Holly walked up to the Bailgate. Again, our timing was great as we made it there in time to see the riders pass on on lap 3. We then made a very important stop to the ice-cream parlour :-)

From here we made our way through Castle Square towards the Drury Lane/Michaelgate area. I was amazed to see how quickly the cyclists were making their way up this steep, cobbled climb - I hate walking up it myself on my way home from town!

In between laps we walked around the few Bailgate shops that were open and alternated our viewing location between Castle Square, Michaelgate and Drury Lane. We also bumped into several more friends we knew - Pip, Jethro, Vicki and Glen - and enjoyed watching several laps with them too.

As the final lap got underway, we made our way to the finishing line in Castle Square, which was packed! I didn't see Scott Thwaites cross the finishing line but I heard a roar of cheering erupt from the crowd.

I really enjoyed the Lincoln Grand Prix and would definitely watch it next year if I get the chance to.

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