The stunning Ashton Memorial provided the backdrop for the start and finish of the newest race on the British National Road Series calendar yesterday.
And, after more than a week of wet weather in Lancashire, the riders rolled out of Williamson Park for the first Lancaster Grand Prix in with the sun on their backs.
What followed was 160km – about 100 miles – of tough racing as the peloton headed for the challenging Dolphinholme circuit which took in the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Beauty and the Duke of Westminster’s Abbeystead Estate, at which the Queen is a regular visitor!
The rider crowned king (sorry, we couldn’t resist!) on the day was local lad Ian Bibby of Madison Genesis.
Bibby, from just down the M6 in Preston, edged out Swift Carbon Pro Cycling’s James Shaw and Dan Tulett of Team WIGGINS Le Col in a sprint on the line.
The race, the brainchild of former British Cycling and UCI president Brian Cooke and the Lune Racing Cycling Club, was touted as a British equivalent of an Ardennes classic.
And while the punishing rolling nature of the course meant a good few riders endured difficult days, it wasn’t the case for the podium trio – plus Canyon dhb’s Max Steadman – who came home in a rapid 3:54:22.
Local knowledge definitely came in handy for Bibby, who admitted he’d been to see the course last week, especially the last 100m which saw the riders re-enter the park and tackle a tight chicane before a short drag to the line.
He said: “I’ve been twice this week to look at it. I wasn’t too sure how I’d go today but I wanted to make sure that if I was there at the finish that I had the best chance.
“I knew I wanted to be second or third wheel into the park and then first into that chicane. I thought that if I could get first into the chicane I’d have a pretty good shot.
“It was hard – it was just up and down all day. It’s been a really brilliant race. It’s a good one for me because it’s local and I train on these roads.
“You can’t beat a proper race like this. It was a really fast first hour-and-a-half and I said to a few teammates that if we gave it an hour then everyone would be stopped dead but it just didn’t stop! I think it was just under four hours so it was pretty quick.”
Shaw, who spent the last two years at World Tour level before heading back to these shores with Swift Carbon Pro Cycling for this season, agreed the race was just what the British scene needed.
He said: “It was a cracking race, a really good course. Once things got underway they raced it like a professional bike race. Everybody was really committed to racing and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
“I did Klondike and I have to admit I found it a little bit strange and I did find at the CiCLE Classic that because it’s based around Tour of Britain qualification that the teams racing teams and not racing the race but I didn’t feel that at all.
“Everyone tried for a break and it took a while to go but when the teams got organised and everybody rode it was cracking! All the teams rode professionally and everybody gave each other the respect they deserved. Bibby was a deserved winner.”
Tulett was left to rue a mistake as the riders re-entered Williamson Park and had to settle for third place.
He said: “It was tough but a really good course. It’s always interesting with a new course.
“I screwed the finish up quite spectacularly, I was on the wrong side on the tight chicane.
“It’s uphill and you come in quite quickly because it’s less than 200m to go and I was on the wrong side and didn’t have enough momentum to make it round and third was the best I could do.
“There was a lot of hype around the hills so I was anticipating a hard race. I’m at the Baby Giro from Thursday so today was a good opener for it with the hills. It’s going to be tough but I’m really looking forward to it.”
Here’s a selection of images from the Lancaster GP: