You'll be hard-pushed to find a classier British-based ride this year than Chris Newton's winning performance at the Lincoln Grand Prix on Sunday.
The Olympic medallist took on the race from the front, in the lead from the third lap of eleven. He picked his efforts and making them count. No-one floats up Michaelgate, but such was his class - so good is his form perhaps - that he always looked in control, even on the lung-bursting ascent which defines the race.
It was the kind of changeable day which favoured riders taking the race by the scruff of the neck, which is exactly what Newton and Lavery did. The pair were already at the front of the group when things went nuclear behind and the bunch's big hitters bridged the gap. Then, they slipped away on the narrow descent at the back of the circuit.
Newton's strength can't be doubted, but Rapha team-mates Dean Downing, Darren Lapthorne and Zak Dempster all played their part, whether in the breakaway or the group behind. Throw in Dan Craven's Shay Elliott Memorial victory on the same afternoon, and John Herety must be a very happy chap.
The one downer was Tom Southam's feed zone crash, sending him to hospital with a suspected broken elbow. Dan Fleeman (Team Raleigh) also hit the deck, visiting Lincoln A&E - he even asked CW lensman Andy Jones where the hospital was - with rib problems.
In truth, Team Sky, albeit handicapped by being forced to field a three-man team, never got a look-in. Perhaps their lofty reputation preceded them. After the race, defending champion Russell Downing did concede that "a lot of teams and riders were looking at us."
Newton knew it
It wouldn't have taken Nostradamus to predict a Newton victory. The tell-tale sign came on the penultimate climb of Michaelgate, as the veteran racer - his long-standing nickname ‘Junior' particularly ironic considering his teenage breakaway companion - was visibly stronger than Lavery. His Irish companion was distanced by 50 metres over the top.
"We had 30 seconds with a lap to go, and pulled it out to 50. I waited a little bit for Phil the last time up the climb; I could hear him shouting ‘ease up a bit'. He wasn't going to just sit on me on the top, he was a fair rider," Newton explained.
Lavery proved, in many respects, the perfect ally for Newton. Though strong on the flat, his comparative inexperience in his first ride at Lincoln showed in the denouement. One got the sense that the precociously-talented Irishman was willing to accept second place, itself a superb result. With time on his side, he'll surely be back to challenge again.
After slipping away from Lavery at the bottom of Michaelgate to win, Newton was forthright. Asked whether it beat his previous win, he said: "It's not better than 2000 - that was special. It was the first win [and] because I'd lost it two years previous by slipping on the wet cobbles."
"The race is a bit different now as well, because they've chopped two laps off. But it's sixteen miles shorter and in no way easier - you've got to make efforts from the word ‘go' to get near the front for the climb," he added.
A British belter
Put simply, the Lincoln is a British classic. Once every year - more precisely, eleven times for the riders - Michaelgate turns into the British version of the Muur de Geraardsbergen.
Riders jostle and sprint to be first into the tight turning to Michaegate. Once on the 1-in-6 climb, they search for the smooth gutters on either side of the road and hammer up it, roared on by fans, the smell of ostrich burgers filling their noses as they cross the line.
The fans love it, and so do the riders. After standing on the podium in the shadow of Lincoln Cathedral, third-placed Simon Richardson summed it up: "Obviously I'd have liked to have done better, but I'll take third. It's such a great race, and so well supported; getting to stand on the podium still means a lot to you, even if, personally, my ambitions are higher now."
Meanwhule, a bunged-up Ian Wilkinson was one of the only big names missing from the action, his Premier Calendar ambitions taking a hit with 21st place. However, post-race he revealed - rather throatily - how he had ridden in support of eighth-placed Jack Bauer.
The likeable Lancashireman is taking a well-earnt week off, but he'll be back for the Tour Series.
A thoroughly professional team display from start to finish, culminating in Newton's win.
Gilham marked the break, Richardson finished with on the podium as ‘best of the rest'. Another good day at the office.
Were up against it with a truncated line-up, but will have been hoping for a podium finish in their first Premier Calendar event.
Results: 55th Lincoln Grand Prix
1. Chris Newton (Rapha-Condor-Sharp) 86 miles in 3-23-13
2. Philip Lavery (Team Ireland) at 7secs
3. Simon Richardson (Sigma Sport-Specialized) at 49secs
4. Alex Wetterhall (Team Sprocket) at 54secs
5. Ian Bibby (Motorpoint-Marshalls Pasta) at 1-09
6. Russell Downing (Team Sky) at 1-11
7. Marcin Bialoblocki (Wilier-Bigmaggys.com-Prendas Ciclismo)
8. Jack Bauer (Endura) at 1-12
9. Jonny McEvoy (Motorpoint-Marshalls Pasta) at 1-13
10. Yanto Barker (Pendragon-Le Col-Colnago) at 1-14
Best U23 rider: Philip Lavery (Team Ireland)
Best East Midlands rider: Dave Clarke (Pendragon-Le Col-Colnago)
King of Michaelgate: Chris Newton (Rapha-Condor-Sharp)
CW is torn. We'd happily give the five-pointer to prodigious Phil Lavery. Only problem is that non-British teams are ineligible for the competition, making it pretty much pointless.
So, it goes to Sprocket rider Alex Wetterhall. Wetter-who, you ask? The Swede deserves to be heralded, as the ‘other man' in the front break. He had all the power of an Abba ballad to trade blows with the British stars when they bridged up and then escaped late with Simon Richardson to claim fourth.
Had it not been for Chris Newton's race-winning attack, the youngster would have won the King of Michaelgate competition.
SUPER TEAM CHALLENGE
Another Premier Calendar victory sees Rapha ride into the lead in our vaunted season-long competition.
Team Sprocket are proving good value too, adding another bevy of points in their first foray in Blighty since the Tour of the Reservoir.
Sigma Sport-Specialized 33
Team Sprocket 23
Motorpoint-Marshalls Pasta 12
Pendragon-Le Col-Colnago 10
RELATED LINKSChris Newton wins the Lincoln GPLincoln Grand Prix 2010: photo gallery
"Hello there, stranger!"
Newton crosses the line in Castle Square
2010 Lincoln Grand Prix podium (l-r): Lavery, Newton, Richardson
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