Take a look at Dean Downing?s face after last year?s race and you will see what it means to win the Lincoln Grand Prix.

The 53rd edition will see 177 riders desperate to be the first to the top of the feared cobbled climb of Michaelgate after 86 miles and add their name to a list of previous winners that reads like a Who?s Who of domestic racing in recent years; Elliott, Curran, Lillywhite, Tanner, Lovatt, Newton ? not to mention both Downing brothers.

Dean Downing is not altogether confident of repeating the win this year: ?I am not feeling good at the moment,? he said. ?I rode hard at the Melton and felt strong but didn?t get the result, but in the Chas Messenger I was lacking energy. It is good when you can make other people hurt, but I was the one getting hurt!

?I can?t put in any more training. I will put in a couple of sessions early this week and then some easy rides leading up to the weekend. It?s a bit frustrating when you know you have done all the work but can?t quite put your finger on what is wrong.?

One thing is for sure: if Downing isn?t up to it on Sunday, there will be a bunch of willing replacements ready to take his crown, including previous winners Mark Lovatt, Kristian House, Chris Newton and, of course, Dean?s brother Russell.

There is one other previous winner to be mentioned: Malcolm Elliott, who last took the race in 1985 and is still a contender today. Remarkable.

Lincoln Grand Prix

Sunday May 11
Round 5 of the 2008 British Cycling Premier Calendar series
Start 10.00am, Yarborough Leisure Centre, Lincoln
Distance 147km (91miles)

Brian Cossavella Trophy

The Lincoln Grand Prix lost a friend and valuable race official with the sad and untimely death of Brian Cossavella who passed away suddenly on March 1.

Brian was well known for organising the world masters track championships in Manchester, he also organised many other major events, including the 1996 world track championships, the Cleveland Grand Prix and the 1997 world table tennis championships. Brian has for many years taken on the responsibility as the driver and assistant to the Chief Race official at the Lincoln Grand Prix and a special award has now been established in his memory.

The Brian Cossavella Michaelgate Trophy will be awarded to the rider gaining the most points on each lap of the Grand Prix as they cross the finish line following the 1 in 6 cobbled climb of Lincoln’s Michaelgate with the first three riders being awarded 3, 2 and 1 points.

Recent winners

2007 Dean Downing (Rapha-Condor)
2006 Kristian House (recycling.co.uk)
2005 (recycling.co.uk)
2004 David O?Loughlin (Total Cycling)
2003 Mark Lovatt (Life Repair)
2002 Huw Pritchard (Angliasport)
2001 John Tanner (Ribble-Provision)
2000 Chris Newton (Middridge CRT)
1999 Saulius Ruskis (Oktos-MBK)
1998 Chris Lillywhite Harrods

1986-88 and 1991 Paul Curran; 1983 Malcolm Elliott; 1980 Steve Joughin; 1976 Bill Nickson; 1957-59 Ron Coe

Last year

1 Dean Downing (Rapha-Condor)
2 Gordon McCauley (PCA)
3 Russell Downing (Health Net-Maxxis)

How I won

By 2007 Champion Dean Downing
?It was horrible day. There was a natural selection the first few times up the climb and it came down to 10 or 12 of us. Russ [Downing] and Jonathan Dayus were up there, and Chris Newton and Gordon McCauley. I attacked with one and a half laps to go and McCauley came up to me. We stayed away and I just held him off on the climb.

?The first time up Michaelgate is decisive; you have to be in the first 15 otherwise you are constantly chasing. All the experienced riders will be at the front, giving it full gas.

?It is a such a special race for me and Russ. All our mates who we ride and socialise with back home ride over to watch. They will all be shouting at us and it?s great hearing all your friends cheering you on.

?It is the biggest race in Britain apart from the National Championships. It?s got everything; big crowds, great setting, great course, the climb ? and there is such a fast run-in before you get to the climb. That?s why it is so special?

My race

Organiser Ian Emmerson OBE lists the ingredients required for a successful race on the Lincoln GP website and an eye-opening recipe it is. From cars to safety pins to bouquets of flowers, Emmerson has an awful lot on his plate.

?It?s all in place so fingers crossed,? said Emmerson. ?We just have the road signage to put out. There is a lot of work gone into it. We have to close down five miles of city centre roads for four hours, so we have posted 900 letters though doors. I have only received two phone calls from residents asking for basic directions and how to avoid the closures. If you don?t do the PR then you should expect to get problems.?

The start time has been brought forward to 10am this year to reduce conflict with shopping traffic. ?Any politician who proposes to ban Sunday shopping will get my vote!? said Emmerson.

All the race needs is a little bit luck with the weather, which was conspicuously absent last year. ?It rained from start to finish,? said Emmerson, ?but the crowds were still solid all the way up Michaelgate and to the finish.?

The forecast is looking good for Sunday so get there early and pick a prime position on the climb.

Battle of the Brothers

downing brothers
This is starting to look a bit one-sided, as Russell again grabbed the points last weekend to leave Deano on the ropes and reeling as the blows rained down.

Rumours that Russell was actually driving the tractor that blocked Dean?s route in the Chas Messenger time trial have proved to be unfounded ? he can?t actually reach the pedals on a tractor ? but the occasional rabbit punch was spotted by eagle-eyed race-watchers and the referee will certainly have his work cut out in Lincoln.

Is Deano a spent force, taking one last payday before retiring to a villa in Spain, only returning to Blighty for the occasional guest spot on A Question of Sport? Or is he doing the Ali ?rope-a-dope? routine, soaking up the blows for round after round before emerging to land the killer punch? Tune in this Sunday for the next thrilling installment.

Score so far
Russell 3.5 Dean 1

Super Team Challenge

cycling weekly super team challenge
Pinarello now have a healthy lead thanks to Russell Downing?s extraordinary run of form.

The Rotherham man just can?t stop winning at the moment and nobody else in the bunch seems to have an answer to his turn of speed. While all the pre-season talk was of the expected ding-dong between Rapha and Plowman?s, Pinarello have ? much like Russ on the last Chas Messenger stage ? snuck under their armpits and grabbed the points. Who can stop them?

1. Pinarello 45pts
2. Rapha-Condor-Recycling 27pts
3. Plowman Craven 10pts

Lincoln Grand Prix 2008 start list>>

Lincoln Grand Prix: www.lincolngrandprix.org.uk.