Sport

British Cycling has announced its calendar of events for the 2022 National Road Series, including the popular Lincoln Grand Prix.

The Lincoln Grand Prix will be opening the season on Sunday, May 8 for both the women’s and men’s National Road Race categories, after being the last leg of the 2021 season this October.

It is a welcome relief to see the Lincoln Grand Prix taking place once again, after the event was sent into disarray by the coronavirus pandemic, prompting the 2020 race to be cancelled.

In the 2021 Lincoln race, Ben Swift retained his national title in the mens event and Pfeiffer Georgi won the elite women’s race. See the weekend in pictures here.

Ben Swift (centre) won the men’s elite race with Fred Wright (left) and Ethan Hayter (right) finishing second and third respectively. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The 2022 season will be contested over eight rounds for the women and seven for the men, including a first national series event for women at the Isle of Man.

Equal prize money will be on offer in both the men’s and women’s series, as has been the case since 2017. More details on the 2022 championships will be published in due course.

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

British Cycling Head of Sport and Major Events, Jonathan Day, said: “I’m really pleased to publish the 2022 road and circuit calendars today, and want to express our deepest thanks to the event organisers for their ongoing support through what has been a really challenging period for the sport.

“It’s brilliant news that we’re able to welcome back a number of races which haven’t been able to take place in the past two seasons, including some mainstays of the calendar, and we’re determined to give our teams and riders the best possible platform to develop and grow from.”

Sophie Wells MBE is the most decorated Olympian/Paralympian in Lincolnshire’s history, with eight medals to her name, but says she still strives for excellence and is looking to add to her medal collection at the next Games in 2024.

Sophie, 31, is an incredibly successful dressage rider who has claimed medals at the last three Paralympic Games, most recently winning a silver and a gold in Tokyo this summer.

She was born with amniotic band syndrome, which results in having little to no feeling or movement in her feet, as well as losing a number of fingers, but the Lincoln-born para-equestrian rider is a fierce competitor who has always had steely determination during her rise to glory.

Sophie has gone from a “farmer’s daughter from Lincoln” to an elite level Paralympian. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Sophie now lives in Saxilby and after growing up on a cattle farm with her parents, she describes herself as “just a farmer’s daughter from Lincoln with big dreams”.

The Lincolnite caught up with the eight-time Paralympic medallist at her training base in Harby, discussing her career in dressage, how she managed a potential COVID crisis before the Games in Tokyo, and buying a dog in lockdown.

With eight Paralympic medals to her name, nobody from Lincolnshire has more success in the games than Sophie Wells. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

“The horses help drop you down to reality”, says Sophie, as she trots out to her riding hall with Don Cara M, the horse she rode at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.

“I went from winning a Paralympic medal to mucking out the horses within a day of each other!”

It was a long road to Tokyo for Sophie, with twists and turns at every opportunity. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Sophie went into the Games this year with a perhaps surprising lack of optimism on the surface (she’d already won medals on the grandest stage in previous Paralympics) – but there were plenty of headaches along the way to justify this.

She said: “My usual horse George (known professionally as C Fatal Attraction) got injured before the Games so we had to adjust to Donny (Don Cara M) instead.

“George is the current world champion, so it was always going to be tough to replicate that on another horse. It is so important to know the horses and their personalities, because obviously you can’t communicate with them like you would a human.”

The Paralympic dream very nearly didn’t happen this summer. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Sophie also tested positive for COVID-19 three weeks before flying out to Tokyo, which very nearly shattered her Paralympic dream.

“It was touch and go right up to the last moment,” she said. “The team doctors were worried we wouldn’t make it, so when we got the all clear and I could compete it was a weight off my shoulders.

“I naturally put a lot of pressure on myself, and because of our previous success we always have a target on our backs as Team GB in this event, but because of the circumstances our expectations were quite low.”

It was a Paralympic Games to remember for Sophie, who won silver and gold in Tokyo. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Despite this, Sophie performed incredibly to take home a silver in the individual test grade five, and astonishingly took the gold in the team event alongside Sir Lee Pearson and Natasha Baker.

She said of her performance: “I’m normally quite hard-faced and keep my emotions in check out there, but the second it was over I just cried my eyes out. The pandemic definitely played into the emotions of the event, it was a huge relief above all else.”

Wells had come full circle all over again. She started riding horses at eight-years-old, but didn’t take up dressage until a few years later when she “kept falling off” her horse.

She spends every single day with her horses. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

After leaving the University of Lincoln in 2009, Sophie became the first dressage rider to compete in both an able-bodied and para-dressage team in the same year, as well as winning multiple titles across Europe.

She then soared to stardom at London 2012, where she won team gold and two silvers in the individual and freestyle competition, which resulted in a golden postbox in Lincoln’s Bailgate, as well as an MBE in 2013 and appearances at Sports Personality of the Year.

Local Paralympian Sophie Wells with her gold postbox in uphill Lincoln.

It brought unprecedented attention to Sophie and the sport of dressage, which Wells poignantly defined as “dancing horses” when we asked what the sport entailed.

“The Olympics and Paralympics completely encompasses everything about this country, everyone forgets about real life for a bit and we feel the buzz of the nation.

“In London for instance, there were 12,000 people in the stadium watching me do what I do most days on my own, I’ve never seen a crowd like that for dancing horses!”

Sophie Wells produced under pressure to clinch gold for the team in Tokyo. | Photo: Paralympics / Equestrian GB

She then went one step better in Rio four years later, defending team gold and again winning silver in the freestyle, but this time winning individual gold for the first time in her career.

Her two medals in Tokyo were the seventh and eighth of her Paralympic career, further cementing her place in Lincolnshire folklore as the person with more Olympic and Paralympic medals than anyone in the county’s history.

Sophie said the pressure was reduced in Tokyo, allowing for her to perhaps enjoy it a bit more.

“I’ve always found it more enjoyable being the underdog, we felt like we let the country down in London because I didn’t win all three golds. I think I’ve become more rational as I’ve got older, so now I can be thrilled with silver, given the circumstances.”

Sophie had to wait a year for the Paralympic Games to even take place, as coronavirus put a halt to proceedings for 2020, meaning she had a year of no competition and lockdown.

Sophie’s eyes are now firmly set on Paris in 2024. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

You might be wondering how a successful sports star coped through coronavirus lockdown… Sophie told us a post graduate diploma and binge watching her new favourite series was on the agenda.

“I’ve never been much of a TV series person, but through lockdown I had more time on my hands, so ended up watching Grey’s Anatomy,” Sophie said. “I am now obsessed with it, I even got a lockdown puppy and called it Bailey after one of the characters.

“I also decided to pursue a post graduate diploma in sports coaching, it was hard to adjust to lockdown in general. I’d competed in a championship every single year from the moment I left school, so to go from that to nothing at all was really bizarre.”

Sophie is now taking a keen interest in coaching, but will continue to compete herself and insists she is fully committed to going for more medals in Paris in 2024.

When asked what advice she would give to any hopeful athlete, Sophie said: “Don’t let anyone else put a limitation on you. Find a passion and stick with it, just remember that the moments of glory are minutes in history that do not last.

“You’ve got to appreciate the sacrifices you have to make and the hard work you have to put in to reap the rewards. I think what some people struggle to deal with is understanding that our lives happen in four year cycles, all for that four to five minutes we are out there competing.”

Jack Kinsey scored a crucial 11-point haul as Lincoln’s 1st XV claimed a hard-fought 18-3 victory against a Southwell side managed by former Welsh international player Andy Powell.

Lincoln showed no fear facing the Nottinghamshire side at Longdales Park, and a player who was previously capped by Wales and played for clubs including Newport Gwent Dragons, Cardiff Blues and Sale Sharks.

Lincoln opened the scoring when Harry Marks dummied his way past a defender before setting up winger Cynyr Jones to dive over for an unconverted try in the corner.

Lincoln’s Ben Sykes running through the Southwell defence. | Photo: Mike Lincoln

Centre Kinsey successfully slotted over a penalty to give Lincoln an 8-0 lead going in the break.

Kinsey, and forwards Jim Calveley and Grant Cowe, put in great tackles to stop Powell in his tracks during a determined Lincoln performance.

Lincoln’s Grant Cowe putting in a tackle to stop Southwell. | Photo: Mike Lincoln

Lincoln’s George Pomfret leaping highest to win a lineout against Southwell. | Photo: Mike Lincoln

Both Kinsey and Southwell kicked penalties before the Lincoln player scored a try that ensured victory for the hosts.

Lincoln worked their way into the opposition half with lots of excellent phases before Kinsey went over for a try to the left of the posts, which Louie Cooke converted.

Lincoln’s Grant Cowe powering through Southwell’s defence. | Photo: Mike Lincoln

Tom Law in action for Lincoln’s Imps XV against Southwell. | Photo: Brian Penney

Joe Christopher scored the only try of the game for the hosts as an injury-hit Lincoln Imps XV lost 29-5 against Southwell’s second team.

At one point Lincoln were down to 11 players as eight players, including substitutes, were forced off injured during the course of the match. However, the hosts refused to give up and produced a battling performance.

Lincoln Ladies were all smiles after their victory against Sleaford Ladies. | Photo: George Reid

Lincoln Ladies maintained their unbeaten start to the season with a 40-7 victory away against Sleaford Ladies.

Jenna Bierton crossed for another hat-trick for Lincoln, while her centre partner Emelia Twesigye also performed excellently, scoring one try and kicking five conversions.

Jenna Bierton, pictured running with the ball, scored a hat-trick of tries as Lincoln Ladies beat Sleaford Ladies. | Photo: parkesfineartphotography

Scrum-half Jade Morgan also grabbed a try after a great break by captain Shannon Snell, while debutant Naomi Stirling scored for Lincoln in her first ever game of rugby.

Jade Morgan, Jenna Bierton, Emelia Twesigye and Naomi Stirling all scored tries to help Lincoln Ladies to victory against Sleaford Ladies. | Photo: George Reid

Lincoln Ladies captain Shannon Snell in action against Sleaford Ladies. | Photo: parkesfineartphotography

Lincoln’s Emelia Twesigye powering through to score despite the best efforts of the Sleaford defence. | Photo: parkesfineartphotography

Sleaford battled hard throughout the match and their only try was scored by Megan Jones, which Amiee Jepson converted.

Nikki Kemp and Amy Woodford made their farewell appearances for Sleaford Ladies.

Sleaford Ladies remained in positive spirits after the match. | Photo: Mike Dean

Other Results

It was a difficult afternoon for Scunthorpe in the Midlands Premier as they suffered a 62-10 defeat at Bridgnorth.

Scunthorpe’s tries were scored by Ethan Taylor and Jack Brunt.

In Midlands Two East (North), a late penalty by the opposition saw Market Rasen & Louth go down to a dramatic 6-5 home defeat against Ashby.

Until the late penalty the hosts had led the match due to a try from Will Pridgeon.

In Midlands Two East (South), two tries from Toby Anderson helped Stamford to a 33-18 home win against Leicestershire side Vipers RFC.

Austin Baker, George Nairn and Iain Downer also scored tries for the hosts, with the latter adding four conversions.

Jack Wright crossing for one of his three tries during Boston’s victory against Sileby Town. | Photo: David Dales

In Midlands Three East (North), Jack Wright crossed for a hat-trick of tries as Boston claimed a 61-15 home victory against Sileby Town.

Boston’s Rowan Mason scoring one of his two tries against Sileby Town. | Photo: David Dales

Rowan Mason grabbed two of Boston’s tries, while Sam Gray, James Smith, Jaron Cowern and Olly Hausermann each scored one.

Hausermann also added seven conversions and Bernie Manning kicked one.

Boston’s Olly Hausermann scored one try and kicked seven conversions during the victory against Sileby Town. | Photo: David Dales

Boston’s Jack Wright caused the Sileby Town defence a lot of problems. | Photo: David Dales

Evan Picking races clear on his way to scoring a try for Grimsby against Belper. | Photo: Jo Moore

Tries from Evan Picking and Lewis Newsum helped Grimsby to a narrow 18-17 home win against Belper.

Jess Matthews kicked two penalties and one conversion.

Jess Matthews kicked two penalties and one conversion during Grimsby’s victory against Belper. | Photo: Jo Moore

Lewis Newsum in action for Grimsby against Belper. | Photo: Jo Moore

Grimsby’s Chris Moore picking up the ball from a ruck. | Photo: Jo Moore

Kesteven were also victorious in the same division as they recorded a 49-12 home win against Bakewell Mannerians.

In Midlands Three East (South), Bourne are just one point behind league leaders Stockwood Park after a 22-3 win at Rushden & Higham.

Rushden had been unbeaten at home in the league this season, but two tries from Sam Thornburn, and one each for Jack Berry and Sam Evison, ensured victory for the Lincolnshire side. Evison also kicked one conversion.

Spalding were narrowly defeated 46-38 in a high-scoring match at home against Stewarts & Lloyds.

In Midlands Four East (North), Leon Stobart and Gaz Ambler scored tries as Sleaford recorded an impressive 18-0 home victory against Cleethorpes.

Sleaford captain Dan Mackie kicked two penalties and one conversion to complete the victory for the hosts.

Sleaford’s 2nd XV were also in action and beat their Cleethorpes counterparts 42-10.

North Hykeham’s trip to Ollerton was abandoned after 25 minutes due to a neck injury to Steve Fortune, at which point the Lincolnshire side were trailing 15-0. The match will now be re-arranged for a later date.

Stamford College Old Boys after their victory against Thorney. | Photo: Phil Paige

In Midlands Four East (South), Will Farthing scored two tries as Stamford College Old Boys claimed a 35-14 home win against Thorney.

Lewis Manning, Tom Birks and Haydn Johns also scored tries for the hosts, will the latter kicking five conversions.

Women’s Rugby

In the Women’s NC 2 Midlands (North East), Kesteven Ladies battled hard throughout and played with excellent spirit in a 54-0 defeat against title-chasing Peterborough Ladies.

The match between Boston Ladies and Deeping Devils Ladies was postponed and will be re-arranged for a later date.

Scunthorpe Ladies celebrating their 8-7 victory away against York RI Ladies.

In the Women’s NC 2 North (East), captain Becky Clark scored a crucial try as Scunthorpe Ladies recorded a narrow 8-7 win away against York RI Ladies.

Continued pressure by Scunthorpe saw them awarded a penalty for offside, which Cassie Milestone successfully converted to ensure victory for the North Lincolnshire side.

Scunthorpe’s post match awards were given to Holly Newman, Katie Haynes, and Cassie Milestone.

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