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18 Mar 2019

One of Britains oldest races - the Chestnut Homes Lincoln Grand Prix

Main image Simon Wilkinson -

The Chestnut Homes Lincoln Grand Prix is one of Great Britains oldest cycling races.

The first Lincoln Grand Prix was held in the summer of 1956 and had attracted a strong entry. After 90 miles of racing Bob Eastwood from Huddersfield RC narrowly outsprinted former Tour of Britain winner Tony Hewson and local star Nev Crane.

The following year produced an even better Field, when Wilson Cycles Independent Ron Coe started his three-year domination of the event, beat super sprinter Dave Bedwell at the line. The same two riders where first and second the next year and Coe completed his hat-trick by beating Bill Bradley and Harry Reynolds in 1959. This race was marred by tragedy when local rider Roy Hart who had been in the leading group all day, came off the back, and hit a van when starting the last lap. The Roy Hart memorial trophy is still presented to the Grand Prix winner.

In 1967 Des Thompson from New Zealand became the first overseas winner leaving a small break to win alone. 1968 saw Doug Dailey win, catching Les West on the run in to the finish, with another Liverpool rider Graham Owen, who had worked like a Trojan to catch West in 3rd place.

By 1968, The Lincoln GP had now gained Star Trophy status and the next three years’ winners were all well-known all-rounders.

The event continued through the 70s producing exciting racing and finishes.

The 1972 event was a straight fight between Britain’s two leading road men, after Phil Bayton's big attack with two miles to go was successfully countered by Phil Edwards there was only going to be one winner. Edwards beating Bayton by three lengths at the line. Later that year these two riders finished 4th and 5th in the Olympic Games Road Race in Munich.

1980 saw an altered course using the new pedestrianised area of Lincoln’s High Street and the cobbled climb of Michaelgate up to the cathedral. Neil Martin was the first to win on the new course beating Chris Whorton and Pete Sanders from an 8 man break.

Into the 90’s and it was Scotsman Brian Smith who finally broke Manchester Wheelers five-year domination of the race. Smith beat Pete Longbottom by just four seconds at the line, and was just too strong to give Longbottom the ideal 31st birthday present. Pete was a great supporter of the Lincoln Grand Prix and before his untimely accidental death he had completed 14 editions of the event with no less than 10 Top 10 finishes.

The 44th Lincoln Grand Prix graduated to International status in 1999, foreign teams included Sport-groep Koksijde squad from Belgium, Oktos-MBK from France as well as strong Scotland and Ireland national teams. Unusually, a group of 12 riders were still in contention at the foot of the final climb of Michaelgate with Banesto’s Jeremy Hunt and National Champion Matt Stephens looking good, Gethin Butler was there, as was Chris Newton and John Tanner. In a hectic last lap massed start hill climb, Hunt had to replace a derailed chain, the Lithuanian rider Saulius Ruskis proved to be the strongest, finishing just three seconds in front of Tanner and Irishman Ciaran Power.

Chris Newton became the first GP winner of the new millennium in spite of an increased overseas contingent. Chris riding for Middridge CRT beat John Tanner in the only sprint finish to be seen in Castle Square.

In the 2001 edition of the race was decided from a 17 man break which went away after 30 miles, most of the favourites were there, including Tanner, Julian Winn, Stephens, Kevin Dawson, Hugh Pritchard from Wales and Ireland’s Morgan Fox, as well as the complete British pursuit squad, who later the same year were to finish a close 2nd in the World Championship, of Chris Newton, Bradley Wiggins, Paul Manning, Brian Steel and Steve Cummings. The breakaway group broke up eventually due to the strength of Tanner and Winn, who went on to finish in that order, just ahead of Matt Stephens who had made a great last lap effort to catch the two leaders.

With Manchester hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2002 the event had riders from Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Isle of Man, Canada and Australia competing against the pick of the English road men hoping to catch their respective selectors’ eye with a good performance in the Grand Prix.

A late entry for the celebratory 50th Lincoln Grand Prix came from Discovery Channel Pro rider Roger Hammond. Roger had finished 3rd on two previous occasions but this time he was recovering from a serious crash sustained in the continental spring classics. Russ Downing was the strongest at the finish beating Dean Downing by six seconds, while Malcolm Elliott left the remains of the original breakaway group at the foot of Michaelgate hill to finish 3rd ahead of Robin Sharman. Top foreign rider was Canadian Andrew Randell in 17th position while Roger Hammond rode a steady recovery race to finish 32nd in the main bunch.

On to 2007 and the weather forecast for May 13th was spot on - Rain starting late morning and getting progressively worse. The huge field of 150 starters faced a wet 86 miles. The race came down to a sprint finish with Dean Downing winning by just over a length. 83 finishers including a group of 28 who finished two laps early because of traffic restrictions. A good achievement in atrocious conditions.

With the University of Lincoln being the main sponsor of the 2012 Grand Prix, a full field of 160 riders set off on the race now restored to the original distance of 13 laps totalling 102 miles. Russell Downing crossed the line in front of a massive crowd for his 4th Lincoln Grand Prix victory.

A new format was introduced in 2014 and used as a rehearsal for the British Cycling National Championship Road Races which will incorporate the 60th Grand Prix in 2015. Two laps of a 25-mile circuit were tackled before the traditional circuit was reached.

The 2015 race was the 60th in Lincoln and was celebrated by being the British National Championship and the first by organiser Mike Jones who has officiated in one capacity or another in every single one. Two fantastic races ensued with Lizzie Armistead taking the Women’s title after attacking on Michalegate on the approached to the bell using the big chain ring to power away from the opposition. The Men’s race was taken by Peter Kennaugh after a last lap drag race up the cobbles against Mark Cavendish with each rider taking to opposite gutters on the climb.

The 2016 podium with the cobble stone trophies now given to each winner

2016 saw the first edition Organised by Dan Ellmore and Peter Odam, with Dan bringing the completion side experience having worked as part of Ian Emmersons team in various roles for 20 years and Peter Odam bringing the Safety and Stewarding knowledge having worked on the event for a number of years in that role.

Ellmore and Odam continue to use their knowledge and experience to bring a fantastic event which is now part of the British Cycling HSBC series and the Lead Cycle Tour (LCT) Euro Cup in 2019.