The National Road Series returns this Sunday with the Lancaster Grand Prix. For the first time, the Grand Prix hosts a women’s race as well as a men’s race.
Here is our preview.
Featured photo: SWPix
What is it?
The third edition of the Lancaster Grand Prix, and the first to include a women’s race alongside a men’s race. This year the Grand Prix forms Round 4 of the women’s National Road Series, and Round 3 of the men’s National Road Series.
The race was created in 2019, with organisers Brian Cookson (former UCI President) and Graham Jones (chairman of the Lune RCC) hoping to make a name for the race as a British equivalent of an Ardennes classic. It has certainly quickly established as one of best-run National Road Series races around. A scenic start/finish setting underneath the iconic Ashton Memorial in Williamson Park and a lumpy profile, well-suited to the domestic peloton’s puncheurs, it has become a firm favourite on the domestic calendar.
The first race was won by Ian Bibby of Madison Genesis. After a pandemic-induced hiatus in 2020, the race returned last season with a surprise winner, Josh Whitehead, who as then a relatively unknown elite-level rider racing for Team PB Performance. Whitehead has since stepped up to the UCI Continental ranks and will line up for his current team WiV SunGod with the number one on his back.
The race features the same punchy, selective course that was used for the 2021 edition. The women’s race is 92 kilometres long, while the men cover 152 kilometres.
After a short neutralised section from Williamson Park, the riders join the main race circuit on Grab Lane, with the flag dropping just before the riders pass over the M6 bridge on Quernmore Road. Riding clockwise, the riders will then tackle the 14.8 km main circuit. The women’s race features six loops of the circuit, the men’s race ten.
Each lap features 273m of elevation, including three leg-sapping climbs. The first of these is placed right at the beginning of each circuit, on Quernmore Road. Just under a kilometre in length, it peaks out at 13.6%, with an average gradient of 5.6%.
The circuit then gently descends before hitting a sharp right-hand turn onto Postern Gate Road. The descending continues from here until the road reaches the River Conder, where the next climb begins. At 2.8km along ‘the valley’, this is a longer climb than the first but far less steep, at just 2.2% average gradient; “a grim, heavy drag”, as one of the organisers described it to us. The climb actually featured on stage 4 of the 2012 Tour of Britain, for which it was called ‘Quernmore’ (after the village the climb passes through). The race classed it as a ‘category 3’ climb for its KOM competition, with Rapha Condor’s Kristian House taking top points at the crest that day.
The route is then flat-ish until it reaches a ninety-degree right turn onto Proctor Moss Road. The then riders descend until they once again hit the River Conder. It’s here that they face the third, and most severe, climb of the circuit. It’s just 0.7 km long but it averages a 7% gradient, with much of the last half at 9-10%.
There will be a QOM/KOM prime at the top of this climb (except on the final lap of each race), with the first four riders across the line scoring 5, 3, 2 and 1 points respectively. The winners of the QOM/KOM competitions will be the riders completing the race with the largest points score.
The race turns right onto Littlefell Lane at the top, but there is no real letup at this point, with the road running along a rolling ridge until a left-turn onto Laithwaite Lane, where the riders face a final rise before the descending begins once again as they approach the M6.
The descent is the steepest of the circuit, and the riders will have to pay attention here, with a particularly steep section of over 30% on the right-hand turn back onto Grab Lane.
On the final lap, the riders go straight on, missing this rather treacherous right-hander, for the final kilometre back to the finish line. Here, the riders are treated to a final sting in the tail. Between 600m and 500m to go, the gradient reaches double digits again before a technical, slightly uphill, final 500m. If a small group reaches this finale together, canny positioning will be as important as finding enough reserves of strength in the legs to power home to the win.
Riders to watch
View the startlists here.
National Road Series standings here.
In the women’s race, CAMS-Basso’s squad includes Stockton Cycling Festival Grand Prix winner Jess Finney, as well as Danni Shrosbree, both of whom could find this course to their liking. The team has perhaps the strongest squad in the field so will be looking to use its collective strength to their advantage.
National circuit race champion Josie Nelson (Team Coop-Hitec Products) is an obvious threat, although she will have to succeed without the aid of teammates. By contrast, National Road Series leader Alice McWilliam‘s Bianchi HUNT Morvélo is intent on protecting her series lead. Second at the Rapha Lincoln Grand Prix, she will be looking to go one better here.
Other riders on the startlist suited to punchy courses like this include Lucy Ellmore (Pro-Noctis – Rotor – Redchilli Bikes by Heidi Kjeldsen), Connie Hayes (AWOL O’Shea), Mary Wilkinson (Team Boompods), Jessie Carridge (Brother UK-Orientation Marketing) and the Torelli-Cayman-Islands-Scimitar pair of Nicole Coates and Olivia Bentley.
The junior rider Emma Jeffers – one of the breakthrough stars of 2022 – also starts and it will be interesting to see how she fairs on hillier terrain after her sprint success at the Barnsley Town Centre Races.
Prediction? A very hard one to predict but we’ll take a punt on Josie Nelson outshining the UK-based riders.
WiV SunGod arrives with an embarrassment of riches. The team’s line-up includes 2021 National Road Series winner Jake Scott, former WorldTour pro Ben Perry (second at the Rapha Lincoln Grand Prix earlier this season), as well as Jim Brown and Rob Scott, who have both won UCI road races this year. That’s even before you get to last year’s race winner Josh Whitehead.
Saint Piran’s new signings Alex Richardson and Adam Lewis add a frisson of excitement and intrigue to race proceedings, especially after Richardson’ success on his team debut last weekend at the GP Nogent-sur-Oise. Leon Mazzone is another option for the team.
Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling has been affected by illness and injury of late, but Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic winner Finn Crockett looks back on form now and is a rider who could win this if he is in top shape. Stuart Balfour also starts and could go well if he is anywhere close to being back to form. Team Inspired pair Bob Donaldson and Harry Burchill both have the characteristics to contend on this course, as does TRINITY Racing’s Max Walker.
Outsiders? George Wood (Cycling Sheffield), Joe Wilson (Dolan Ellesse Race Team), James Jenkins (Richardsons-Trek DAS), George Peden (Team PB Performance) and Ben Granger (Zappi Racing Team) are among those with the potential to spring a surprise.
Prediction? It’s hard to see past WiV SunGod, such is the team’s dominance of late. We think Jake Scott will back up his Stockton Cycling Festival Grand Prix win with another victory here.
|9.00||Women’s race start|
|11.45||Women’s race finish (estimated)|
|14.00||Men’s race start|
|17.45||Men’s race finish (estimated)|
The forecast is for warm sunny weather and a gentle breeze. Sun cream essential.
How to follow
The race is being streamed here.