A last minute sponsor has rescued one of the oldest cycling races in the UK.
The Lincoln Grand Prix is an annual event in Lincoln, dating back to 1956, but was scheduled to be cancelled this year due to lack of funding.
But now British clothing brand Rapha has stepped in to save the National Elite Series races, agreeing to be the lead sponsor for the next two years. The event will go ahead on May 9 and 10.
Dan Ellmore, the organiser of Lincoln GP, said: “It would be a huge loss to the calendar. It’s known as the one the riders want to win.”
Simon Richardson claimed bronze at the Lincoln GP, once in 2008 and again in 2010. He said: “It’s a really important race here in the UK and certainly one of the most prestigious, so losing it would have been a big blow.
“It’s becoming increasingly difficult to put races on so this feels like an important step in stopping the decline.”
Two-time silver medallist in the men’s 2012 and 2013 races, Marcin Bialoblocki, said: “Great Britain would not be great if Lincoln GP didn’t take place.”
Chestnut Homes sponsored the race from 2017 but pulled out ahead of the 2020 event, citing Brexit and the General Election result for the move.
It previously contributed £15,000 per year towards the running of the races, without which the event could not go ahead. Although Rapha will be contributing the same amount of cash, the status and relevance of the company to the sport is predicted to raise the Grand Prix’s status and bring value to the Lincoln event.
The initial partnership with Rapha is for two years but the company has not ruled out further sponsorship and wants to help the event become more self-sustaining.
Rapha Performance Roadwear is a British sportswear and lifestyle brand focused on road bicycle racing, clothing and accessories.
MinebeaMitsumi, a historical Lincoln business making technical bearing products for aircraft manufacturers, has been named as another title sponsor.
Both the men’s and women’s Grand Prix races on Sunday May 10 begin at Bishop Grosseteste University Campus then move to Castle Square for the official start. The men’s race begins at 1pm and consists of 13 laps of the course, totting up 103 miles, while the women’s ride starts at 9am and consists of eight laps equalling 63 miles.
The course takes riders through the historic Bailgate area, out to Burton Village and up the famously gruelling Michaelgate Hill, finishing in Castle Square.
Mr Ellmore said: “The Lincoln GP is unique because it runs through the city centre, every lap for the whole race. This creates a spectacular backdrop of the castle and cathedral, which are the city’s main tourist attractions. It also gives a focal point for the crowd and we get 7,000 to 10,000 people in the Michaelgate area.”
Jessica Roberts, 20, claimed second place in the women’s race last summer. She said: “The Lincoln GP is one of my favourite races on the British calendar so I’m really pleased that Rapha has saved it.
“It’s such a fun race and there’s always lots of spectators watching, especially up Michaelgate which is really special.”
It costs £45,000 for the organisers to run the event with the policing bill alone reaching £10,000. It has previously required eight police motorbikes, two police cars, a silver command police officer and 60 stewards to shut all the side roads.
In previous years the organisers themselves have made up extra costs up to £1,000 but until Rapha stepped in, £20,000 was needed for the 2020 races.
The women’s race was added to the event in 2016, and now Lincoln GP is one of the only major British sporting events to offer prizes of the same value for both men and women, with both winners being awarded £400.
Best places for spectators to enjoy the action, according to organisers, are Castle Square, Burton Village, Saxilby Road, Michaelgate, Long Leys Road and the Bailgate Area.
Mr Ellmore said: “The list of previous winners is full of Olympians and Commonwealth Games riders and also we have had some huge names ride but not win.”
Past participants have included Bradley Wiggins, Tom Pidcock and Malcolm Elliott.
Looking to the future, Mr Ellmore added: “All cycling events in the UK seem to be struggling so we are trying to look at the business model for them to make things better for the future.”