Friday 24 July 2015

Sheffield Cycling Grand Prix 2015

Sheffield Grand Prix 22 July 2015 cycling race
For the past three weeks I've spent far too much time watching the riders in the Tour De France on my television making their way up and down mountains covering hundreds of miles each day. It's great to be able to see such coverage but nothing beats the atmosphere of watching a live sporting event. The great thing about road cycling races is that they are free to watch as you simply turn up at the side of the road and wait for everyone to pass by.
For the past four years Sheffield has played host to the Sheffield Grand Prix. Unlike the Tour de France, which is a stage race played out over days and days of cycling, the Sheffield Grand Prix is a circuit race. Also known as a criterium or 'crit' these sort of races take place in town and city centres. The route is comprised of a loop of around 1 to 2.5km which the riders keep riding round. The length of the race can be determined either by a set number of laps or a time limit of around 40-60 minutes. The great thing about circuit races is that you get to see lots and lots of racing action as the riders can pass by you by up to 30 times.
Roger Hammond - Team Manager Madison Genesis
On Wednesday night the the central road loop around Sheffield city centre was closed by 6pm for the first set of racing to begin. The circuit start and finish was at the top of the Peace Gardens on Pinstone Street. It headed down and turned onto Furnival Gate, round the corner to Arundel Gate, passing the Crucible Theatre to go up Norfolk Street and the start of the cobble section at Surrey Street before finally passing the Town Hall and back on Pinstone Street.
The first race of the evening was a one-lap university team time trial between Sheffield University and Sheffield Hallam University. A little bit of city rivalry and a great chance for some amateurs to ride the course competitively.
The next event was the full circuit Northside Truck and Van Classic race. This was designed for 3rd and 4th category riders. Think of these categories as leagues in football. The best cyclists compete in the top elite races while the others try to work their way up in lower ranked events. It really gives great experience of competing in full closed road conditions with an enthusiastic crowd cheering you on.
Graham Briggs - 2011 National Circuit Race Champion
The main race of the evening started at 8.15pm and was the Sheffield Hallam University Grand Prix. It forms part of the British Cycling Elite Circuit Series which involves several races where riders can build up up points (and remember points mean prize money!) before an overall winner is crowned at the end of the season. In the middle of all this is the National Circuit Championships. This year's event is being held just up the road in South Yorkshire in Barnsley next Wednesday 29th July. The winner not only gets the honour of being British champion for the year but also they can wear the national champion's white jersey with red and blue strips in any authorised circuit races they compete in.
Although there is only one outright winner cycling is still very much a team event. In order to gain position, set the pace and save energy for your nominated leader a team must work together. Once one rider has got away it's up to the group or peleton behind to work together to get up to the leader. Tom Scully made a break for it on Wednesday night and the riders behind just started looking at each other letting Scully extend his lead further. Note that Scully rides for Madison Genesis and one of the riders above looking round is a Madison Genesis team member. Perhaps he decided it was best not to let the peleton catch Scully up!
On such a short circuit any riders that are lapped have to pull out so they don't hold up any riders. As the laps went down Tom Scully extended his lead further and further and at one point was over a minute in the lead. Pretty impressive considering it was taking less than two minutes to do the entire circuit! It ended in another fine win for Scully who has made quite a name for himself in the UK circuit racing scene since coming over from New Zealand.
After the presentations had been made and the bubbly sprayed over the photographers and remaining spectators it was time for the barriers to be taken down and the roads re-opened. Until next year and another night when the bicycles rule the city's road.

1 comment:

  1. I love it when bicycles have the run of the city, looks a great event.


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