Who needs the Champs-Elysées when we’ve got our own Grand Arrivée on Pinstone Street? The annual Sheffield Hallam University Grand Prix attracts world-class athletes to Sheffield's city centre. This July, the Grand Prix is playing host to the HSBC UK National Circuit Championships, a high-tempo evening of criterium racing on Wednesday 19 July.
Criterium races – for those who don’t know their pedal from their peleton – are fast, tough, exciting events, where riders compete over a number of laps or within a set time. Spectators can gather outside the Town Hall, pick up refreshments, browse stalls and watch serious cyclists get in the zone before they whizz off on the race.
Olympic champions Elinor Barker, Katie Archibald and Ed Clancy have been confirmed to race, while four former male champions, including three-time winner Russell Downing (JLT Condor) will be trying to reclaim the title, while reigning champion Eileen Roe (Team WNT) will defend her women’s crown.
The women’s race, which has previously been won by the likes of Lizzie Deignan, Joanna Rowsell Shand and Hannah Barnes, will feature Barker and Archibald – two of Great Britain’s victorious team pursuit quartet from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Archibald, riding for Team WNT, said: “I’m really looking forward to the championships. There’s a hugely competitive field and some very strong racers, none more so than my team-mate Eileen Roe, who’s the defending champion."
Barker, who will ride for Matrix Pro Cycling, said: “I’m really excited to ride the circuit championships. It’s hard to state an aim at the moment without having ridden the course, but hopefully things will play into my favour. Mainly I want to go and ride a good hard race.
“Katie will be someone to look out for - she’s so strong and the event suits her so well. The race is short and will be fast and attacking with lots of sprints and, as omnium world champion, that’s exactly what she’s built for.”
Also due to be on the start line for the women’s race are reigning champion Roe, UCI Track World Cup gold medallist Emily Kay (both Team WNT) and Rebecca Durrell (Drops), who finished as individual leader at the 2017 Matrix Fitness Grand Prix Series.
The men’s event, which lists Mark Cavendish amongst its former winners, will see Downing lining up against JLT Condor teammates and fellow former winners Clancy, Ian Bibby and Graham Briggs.
World and European junior cyclo-cross champion Tom Pidcock (PH Mas–Paul Milnes–Oldfield) and Madison Genesis’ Connor Swift, who won two Tour Series rounds this season, will also compete.
South Yorkshire-born Downing said: “The race is five days after my wedding but I wouldn't miss the championships for the world, especially with them being staged in Sheffield. I really like the course and have ridden well there before."
The racing will take place on a 1.4-kilometre course that starts and finishes on Pinstone Street. The women’s race will begin at 6:30pm, with the men’s race starting at 8:00pm.
Full details of the championships and the course can be found on the British Cycling website at www.britishcycling.org.uk/nationalcircuitchampionships
Spectators: here’s a few insider tips from Sheffield Grand Prix organiser Marc Etches.
Where’s your best tip to see the action?
The best place to see the action is on Pinstone Street, but everyone will want to see the finish line. A great spot to see a fast corner is at the end of Pinstone Street where the road turns on to Furnival Gate, and Surrey Street is great, where the riders tackle the cobbled section of road.
Everyone likes a statistic; tell us, what kind of speeds will the riders be reaching in the race?
We expect the riders to average close to 30mph for an hours racing. The top speeds will come as the race heads down to Furnival Gate where riders will be racing down at over 35mph.
Cycling has always been a popular sport in Sheffield and the region. If money was no object, how would you improve things for cyclists in the area?
For me, as a cycle coach, it would be to build an indoor velodrome facility in the city. The only way to breed future Tour de France winners is to start youngsters on the track. Velodromes create a wealth of talent that is hard to recognise when riding on the road. We need to find the next Bradley Wiggins or Victoria Pendleton – I’m sure we have one in Sheffield!