With time trials out in the Lincolnshire Wolds completed, the National Road Championships now move to the cathedral city of Lincoln for the weekend, beginning with the National Circuit Race Championships on Friday evening.
The backdrop to the circuit race is spectacular, with a floodlit course set around the 11th century Lincoln Castle and a finish line on the Castle Square between the Castle and Lincoln Cathedral, the same finish that will be used on Sunday’s road race. Those of us lucky enough to be there can look forward to a lively, action-packed evening of entertainment. And for those that aren’t, there is a live TV coverage on Eurosport and GCN to look forward to.
What is it?
A contest to decide the best circuit – or crit – racers in Britain. The National Circuit Race Championships were first held back in 1979 for professional cyclists – and men – only before an open event was established in 1996. A women’s Championships began two years later in 1998.
On the men’s side, previous winners of the open event include reigning champion Joey Walker, his Dad Chris Walker, Rob Hayles, Chris Newton, Dean and Russell Downing, Mark Cavendish, Ed Clancy, Adam Blythe, Ian Bibby, Tom Pidcock and Matt Gibson. Russell Downing holds the record for the most number of wins with three victories, stretching from his first in 2003 to his last in 2013.
The women’s event counts Lizzie Deignan (then Lizzie Armitstead), Jo Rowsell, Dani King, Hannah Barnes, Lucy Garner, Nikki Juniper and Anna Henderson amongst its previous winners. Becky Durrell won the last edition in 2019. Hannah Barnes has won the most editions, with three victories to her name.
The circuit circles the Norman castle, built by William the Conquerer and notable for being only one of two castles in the country with two mottes.
It is a short, flat, fast circuit, the same course used for the Lincoln Criterium, won in 2017 by a very young Tom Pidcock. Both the men’s and women’s races will be contested over one hour plus five laps, with the floodlit circuit passing through the cobbled Castle Square between Lincoln Cathedral and Lincoln Castle.
There is barely any ascent or descent, with each lap consisting of just 10 metres of climbing. What will test the riders though are the high speeds, tight and twisty roads and a set of cobbles by the start and finish area on Castle Square that will be well-familiar to riders who have competed in the iconic Lincoln Grand Prix.
The nature of the circuit will mean that positioning will be key, and any riders finding themselves at the back of the start grid will face a major battle early on just to get to the front where the action will happen.
So who will be the kings and queens of the castle on Friday evening?
Final startlist here.
The women’s race features mainly domestic team riders, with the odd pro racing abroad thrown into the mix too.
One of the latter is Hannah Barnes (Canyon//SRAM), who has won this event three times and was a class act in the Tour Series once upon time before she turned pro. She may not be a circuit racing regular these days but she looked to be in good shape at the Women’s Tour (she put in a strong nationals time trial performance too) and her experience should count for a lot.
Rachel Langdon (Instafund Racing) is someone we’re excited to watch. Langdon is based with the Canadian team Instafund Racing and rarely races in the UK. In the States, however, she is an excellent crit rider, so good in fact that she had 21 top 10s across the US this season and won the overall USA Crits Series title too. We’re looking forward to seeing how she matches up against the best domestic riders.
Eluned King (Team Breeze) has had an excellent season, earning herself a contract with Drops-Le Col s/b Tempur for next year. She won the National Circuit Series title, taking the victory at the Otley Grand Prix along the way, and then won the Guisbrough round of the Tour Series. She is very fast finisher and if it comes down to a reduced bunch gallop she will be hard to beat.
Lincoln-based team Pro-Noctis – Redchilli Bikes – Heidi Kjeldsen have several cards to play. Fielding eight riders, far more than any other team, they may well be able to use their combined strength to their advantage. As a team they are formidable in circuit series races – second overall in the Tour Series this year shows that. And the have individuals such as Corinne Side, Jo Tindley and our journal writer Charliiy Berry who are strong enough to win.
National Road Series winner Abi Smith (Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank) may not be an out-and-out sprinter but she is powerful enough to on a circuit like this to win. From her long-range solo victory at the CiCLE Classic this year to her sprint win at the Curlew Cup, she has shown she can win in different ways too.
Josie Nelson (Team Coop-Hitec Products) is one to watch. The first-year senior has had an excellent road season, and was in or close to the top ten at the Women’s Tour on several occasions this year, demonstrating that she has a good turn of speed in a sprint finish. Her cyclocross background means she will be well-suited to this kind of intense hour-long effort too.
There are too many other contenders to name here but Jess Finney (CAMS-Basso), Lucy Lee and Danielle Shrosbree (both Team LDN – Brother UK), for example, are all riders that have caught the eye this year with their crit racing results.
Predictions are always tricky, but if we had to pick a winner, we think it will Eluned King who will reign.
There are four WorldTour riders on the provisional startlist and, whilst criterium racing is not their bread and butter these days, each is well capable of taking the win under the floodlights on Friday night.
First, there is the Ineos Grenadiers duo of Ethan Hayter and Owain Doull. Both are strong riders with a fast finish and this is a course Hayter in particularly. He is clearly a real racer who loves an opportunity to pin a number on. His time trial win suggests he is flying, so he has to start as one of the favourites.
The last we heard, the other two WorldTour riders, Gabz Cullaigh (Movistar Team) and Harry Tanfield (Team Qhubeka Nexthash), are both in search of teams for 2022. They will be extra motivated to show themselves here. Cullaigh has a fast finish and was fourth in these championships in 2019. Tanfield has won Tour Series rounds in the past, so is no stranger to this style of racing, and was fifth at the Otley Grand Prix earlier this year.
Canyon dhb SunGod arrive with strength in numbers with no less than 10 riders on the startlist – one sixth of the entire field! The team showed its might this year by winning both the National Circuit Series and the National Road Series and is well-drilled at winning races like this. Circumstances here are slightly different of course. They won’t be under strict team orders and, with the team’s future still uncertain, they will be riding with future contracts in mind. Nonetheless, you’d expect the riders to work their team strength to their advantage. Five-time 2019 National Circuit Series winner Matt Bostock, 2021 Castle Douglas round Tour Series winner Charlie Tanfield and 2012 National Circuit Series winner Reece Wood are amongst the Canyon dhb SunGod riders that could win here.
Crimson Orientation Marketing RT will be hoping to go out with a bang this weekend in their final ever races. And in reigning champion Joey Walker and cyclocross specialist Toby Barnes, they have two riders well capable of a win.
Lewis Askey (Groupama-FDJ Continental) just to loves to race his bike and is powerful enough to stay away if the bunch give him a whiff of a gap. First-year junior Joshua Tarling (FlandersColor Galloo) probably won’t win the race, especially stuck in junior gears, but he might well be in the mix. He was second in the junior world time trial championships last month and put in a memorable display at this year’s Otley Grand Prix to finish third.
There are many other potential contenders, so here’s just a few of them. Fast-finishing pursuiter Rhys Britton (Team Inspired) is backed by a strong GB team, Isaac Mundy (Richardsons Trek DAS) narrowly missed out on the win in this race in 2019 after unclipping in a two-up sprint with Joey Walker, Leon Mazzone (Saint Piran) who looked sharp at the Tour Series, and crit-specialist Alec Briggs (Tekkerz CC) who will be hoping he has recovered enough from broken bones to put on a show.
Prediction? It’s a difficult one to predict. We think it will be a toss up between the might of the Canyon dhb SunGod team and the individual brilliance of Ethan Hayter, with Hayter winning out.
Women’s race: 17.30
Men’s race: 19.30
How to follow
There will be live coverage through GCN+, Eurosport Player and British Cycling’s YouTube channel (UK-only), plus a full highlights programme on ITV4 at 7pm on Monday 18 October.
Keep an eye out too for updates on British Cycling’s social media channels, and we’ll also be on the ground, so may be able to bring you updates too on Twitter.
The weather is forecast suggests it will be dry and relatively mild, with little wind. A perfect evening for a beer by the roadside.
Featured photo: Richard Blaxall/SWpix.com – 21/07/2019 – HSBC UK British Cycling National Circuit Championships, Rochester Medway -Women’s Race
– Rebecca Durrell wins