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Lincoln Grand Prix Sportive REVIEW

by Howard Johnson

Distances: 100, 83 and 63 miles
Participants: 850 (Entry on the day)
Start: Yarborough Leisure Centre, Riseholme Road, Lincoln LN1 3SP
Feed-stops: 2 
Catering: Hot drinks and cold food available at the finish
Timed: Yes (Timing chip attached to lanyard)
Signs: Red arrows on a white background. 
Roads:  Generally very good, some rough surfaces with a few bits of gravel. 
Photos of the day taken by SportivePhoto
Support: On course support provided
63 miles:  
83 miles
100 miles  

"Howie, how do you fancy riding a lovely flat event with no hills, in Lincolnshire" says our beloved Editor. Chubby boy here jumps at the chance, a nice flat ride, sounds ideal to me.

The number of sportive events is increasing each year, and I believe the combination of a sportive on a Saturday covering the route the professionals will race on a Sunday is a great idea, as we amateurs can get a feel for the parcours the pros will be racing on, even if they will be double our average speed in many cases.

Communication from the Organisers was very good, informing riders of the change of route and the addition of 8 miles due to road closures. I for one then dropped from 83 miles to 63miles, as my Mojo is still not 100% and my legs are definitely not there yet, with a severe lack of mileage this spring due to the weather. 

Howie on the move

I also had the great benefit of some additional support from my good friend Graham Temple at Wheels in Wheels, with the loan of a gorgeous pair of Dura Ace C35 wheels shod with Michelin Pro Race 4 tyres. I can readily confess, these wheels roll and roll and roll. They are worth their weight in gold, or should that be carbon, a fantastic pair of hoops.


Registration at the Sports Centre couldn't have been simpler, sign on, get your number, the collect your timing chip on a lanyard. With a staggered start and a creative use of the route, riders on the shorter route always had company, as the longer routes looped out and then back onto the main course.With no time to lose, it was time for yours truly to get the new wheels spinning. And boy could I feel the difference. The first few miles were rolling out of Lincoln and quickly into the farmlands, and the miles were quickly being ticked off in rapid fashion, well for me at least.  By the 20 mile mark it was time to stop for a quick chat with Phil O'Connor of SportivePhoto who was providing photography on the day.


Pleasantries exchanged with Phil, and a few photos taken, it was time to get the legs warmed up and soon enough the 32 mile mark arrived where the first feed station was located. The selection of goodies available was above average with both sweet and savoury choices, along with water energy drinks and hot drinks if required. Not one for standing around too long at the feed stations any longer it was time to carry on this flat course!

First Feed Stop

Mental not to self, don't believe the Editor when he says the route is flat. Where did they find the little steep hills from, a real challenge for some riders.Not being local to the area, and failing my Meteorology exam twice to become a PPL, I couldn't understand why, on a circular course, I had a constant headwind. Either the wind in these parts blows from all directions at once, or I generate my own micro climate. Either way the long drags, with either a block headwind or crosswind soon had my legs aching. I was also pushing a bigger gear than usual,  trying to get a time near to 4 hours.  But as the miles clicked over slower and slower, my mental adjustment to a finish time soon extended out from 4, to 4.5 to 5 and then bugger it just finish!


Skirting along the long flat and dead straight roads around Scampton, home to the Dambusters, I was passed by a couple of Pros who were out doing a recce for the following day, and to see the speed difference on the climb at Scampton where I was all over the bike like a bear having sex with a sofa, compared to the lithe, ultra quick, ultra slim guys that just literally danced up the hill as quick as an Arabian Stallion with mustard smeared testicles, was amazing.


But no time to sulk or think about what could have been, time to focus on getting back to Lincoln and the final challenge of Michaelgate. With a couple of steep ascents and descents, that were very well marshalled, it was time to get into the granny gear and attack 600m of cobbles with a 16% gradient. There were lots of families along the kerb cheering the riders on, and I just blew up on the lower slopes. Sadly, stopping is the easy thing to do, getting going again is more difficult with clipping in on a steep incline. With the aid of a passer-by I was clipped in and pushed up the hill only to encounter a local who decided that no matter what, they were going to drive their car out onto the road and then block it, causing me and many more riders to come to a halt. 


After a full and frank exchange of views,, I was clipped in again and duly pushed up the incline to the left turn and then the upwards to the final right turn and the finish close to the cathedral. The place was buzzing, my heart rate was high, and the sense of achievement was burning in my chest, or was that my lungs saying STOP!!

Yours Truly

Either way, it was a really fitting end to a great sportive event. The next challenge was to follow the map back from Lincoln City Centre to the Sports Centre, where the timing chip was exchanged for an array  of sandwiches, savoury and sweet goodies and teaSo it's the first dry day in 4 weeks, and the bike is packed, and shorts are on, ready for a flat day out around Lincoln. Even the sun has managed to make an appearance, which is always welcome.


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16th May 2012 4:31pm RichardWoods wrote:

My first Sportive! I also came to a grinding halt on Michaelgate, but tried to remount without the help of anyone and duly toppled over and broke my scaphoid!!! I did manage to get over the line on my bike though. Being local at least I new where A&E was! a few months off the bike now unfortunately, but I will be back to do it next year and I will conquer Michaelgate. A great day and sportive.

17th May 2012 9:28am newsonoid wrote:

Great sportive with excellent organisation. The cobbled climb at the end wasn't as bad as I'd feared, though I did fall off halfway up to a round of 'ooooohhhh' from the spectators - well of course, I had to get back on and finish! Looking forward to next year!

17th May 2012 11:20am thenuttyboy wrote:

Being local i pretty much knew what to expect on the hills but the route still provided a stern test in places (Nettleton being the hardest). The unexpected twist at the end where the route was changed to go up Carline Road was a real test of character but added yet another test for bike and rider. The cobbles of Michaelgate are a tough way to end a big ride but the satisfaction of beating them and then rounding the corner into a crowd-filled Castle Square make the effort whorthwhile. Didn't mind the extra miles due to a route change and think they should keep this distance for next year - 100 miles sounds so much better when telling people how far you are going! A brilliant day helped along by great feed stations manned by really nice people.