By Gerry McManus
This year's Lincoln GP could see a new name emerging from the peloton to stand on the top level of the winner's podium on Sunday 7th May 2006.
Many of the names which have become familiar to those following British Cycling's Premier Calendar are missing from the 51st running of the top class event that sweeps through the city centre of historic Lincoln. Russell and Dean Downing (DFL-Cyclingnews), Mark Lovatt and John Tanner (Planet X) are all elsewhere as 129 riders battle it out in the shorter race distance of 84-miles. More importantly to some, the race ascends the cobbled climb of Michaelgate 11 times instead of the usual 13.
You would be wrong in thinking that the field lacks quality as nine out of the ten top riders in the British Cycling rankings feature here, including London's Tony Gibb (Plowman Craven RT) who has a clear lead over second placed Matthew Stephens (Sigmasport RT). Policeman Stephens also sits second in the Premier Series overall so far, and lest we forget his talent, he once finished seventh in the last ever running of the Amateur World Road race Championship a few years back.
Former world silver track medallist Gibb has a taste for winning this season with six road wins under his belt to add to his track victories. His PCA team have just lost the top BC team ranking to Recycling.co.uk, despite Malcolm Elliot's two road victories and second place in the Archer event.
Kristian House (Recycling.co.uk) dominated the recent Premier Calendar Girvan 3-Day event and now leads the Premier Series after three counting events. Team mate Ben Greenwood's points tally gives him third in the series after winning the Tour of the Reservoir and gaining sixth spot in the Archer GP. Recycling has clearly benefited from its early season foray in the Tour of Langkawi, and Chris Newton showed he is still sharp on the track when he took fourth place in the points race in the world championships. Rob Sharman continues to improve in stature and he has already shown confidence in a top professional field finishing 9th in the final stage in Langkawi in February.
Phil Dixon (scienceinsport.com) could produce the goods this time if he can convert his consistency into some winning form and victory would certainly move him up from his current fourth place in the year long race series.
And what else is there to say about the former Lincoln winner Malcolm Elliot (Plowman Craven RT)? The adjective "evergreen" is appropriate in describing the 40-something Sheffield rider but it could be replaced by "evertanned" or "everonthepodium" as he continues to beat the clock in more ways than one. His recent lone trip to Ireland resulted in second spot in the classic Shay Elliott memorial up against a number of strong Irish teams. Murphy and Gunn's Andrew Roche had the beating of Elliot in the event and the professional Irish squad field a five man team including comeback man Morgan Fox, who suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome when the West Meath man was riding for a pro Belgian team some years ago now.
"Beating the Poms" will be down to Team FRF Couriers/Caravello from Australia. Re-launched last year as a continental team, it is seen as a development squad in some circles. The Aussies arrive with a number of events completed this year including the Giro Del Capo in South Africa and the Tour of Caledonia, where they achieved victory with Peter McDonald. They will probably be whinging just like the Poms on the 1 in 6 cobble climb that twists up to the finish in Castle Square.
The shorter distance certainly opens the race up for more contenders. Don't rule out Kevin Dawson (Agisko-Dart) who has enough talent to manage without former team mates Tanner and Lovatt this season. It all starts at 11.45 from Yarborough Leisure Centre on the outskirts of the city and it could be all wrapped up by ten-past-three if last year's 25mph average is repeated. £600 first prize will be good compensation for one deserving rider.
No doubt another display of how to put on a cycle race by Ian Emmerson and a long list of supporters.