I can hardly believe it?s now over two weeks since I was in Liege covering the last of this year?s Spring Classics. Time flies and last weekend it was time for one of our Classics, the Lincoln Grand Prix.

The 53rd edition took in eleven eight mile laps that include the 17 per cent cobbled gradient of Michelgate. The narrow climb winds up through the old quarters of Lincoln and passes through the market place at the top beneath the shadow of the castle walls and the imposing cathedral bell towers.

As I mentioned in last weeks blog I had started on a bit of much needed decorating at the beginning of last week. My bedroom was getting the treatment and by Wednesday evening the job was about done. Many thanks to my dad for all his assistance in making the job be achieved in the time it was.

Managed an hours spin on the Tuesday evening after paint brushes and rollers were done with for the day. I just went up the Mayfield valley and round the top of Porter Clough to Ringinglow village. It was then along Sheephill Road to Ecclesall Road/Hathersage Road before dropping in to the back of Dore village. I came through Dore and back up Long Line and retraced back to Ecclesall Road to go straight back down the main road and back home. It was just enough to turn the legs and put in a couple of good efforts up the climb out of the Mayfield Valley and then Long Line.

Spent the evening in La Luna, a pleasant little Italian restaurant, with friends from the Peak RC. It was the first time I had been in there, even though it is just round the corner from my flat. The occasion was Simon Owens birthday and it was a very enjoyable evening in good company.

Wednesday morning and I was up early to put the last coat of paint on the one wall my dad had not had time to finish the evening before. The second coat went on so much better and was soon done. A lick of gloss on the window ledge and radiator and the job was done. I then finished off my blog for last week and got that sent so it could go up on the website.

Went out on the bike in the afternoon while the paint was still drying. A very warm, pleasant sunny afternoon. I did my usual Matlock run. It?s amazing how quickly the number of flowers, even in the last week, have come in to bloom along the roadsides and river banks I pass on route. The white flowers of the Wood Anemone have now given way to the white of the Ramsons or Wild Garlic along the stream banks down Via Gellia . It?s just been a carpet of white blooms along there.

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As I rode up from the back of Calver to Froggatt I saw a dead male Bullfinch in the roadside. A bit sad really as they are a beautiful bird with their bright crimson chest, jet black head, slate grey back and their flash of white on the rump.

Later on Wednesday evening my dad popped down to help manoeuvre the bedroom furniture back in to place after our painting efforts. The curtains were put back up which had been kindly washed by mum. I don?t really have anywhere to hang things to dry outside, so mum washing them was a great help. The finishing touch was a new lamp shade to complete the new fresh look.

Thursday was a morning of catching up on work related things that I?d not had chance to do earlier in the week.

The weather was once again fantastic and so I ventured out on the bike in the afternoon to make the most of it. I did my usual Matlock run once again. As I passed the gates of Chatsworth park I noticed the signs had gone up for the three-day horse trials that were on over that coming weekend. I have been to the event, though it?s some years ago now. I?ve always fancied going again to see the cross country day I?d seen all those years ago. Reading the newspaper after the weekend’s events, I realise that the Chatsworth Nissan International Horse Trials are quite a big event in the equestrian calendar and had had Zara Phillips, Pippa Funnell and William Fox-Pitt riding in this World Cup qualifier. I?ll have to make a note and try and get there next year.

Spotted the Dipper bobbing up and down on one of the rocks in the river behind Calver mill as I made my why up to Froggatt. I?d not seen it about for a while, so it was good to know it?s still about.

After doing a bit of work after I got back I had a wander through Ecclesall woods to try and get a few pictures of the Bluebell display in the last of the day’s sunlight. I then went up to the Mayfield lanes. It was the first time I?ve been up there at dusk at this point of the year. It?s a great time of day to be up there as there?s still always plenty to see. I spotted a Noctule bat out on it?s evening?s foray for food. It?s one of Britain?s larger bats, about the size of a Swallow and at first you might be led to think it is a bird. It has a strong flight with sudden swift diving manoeuvres as it picks up an insect with it?s echo-location.

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As I walked back under the tree cover near the farm buildings I pass, I spotted several Common Pipistrelle bats about. This species is our smallest British bat and probably the one you see most often flitting about close to your homes. I love walking down the lanes when they are about. They have a low fast and erratic flight pattern and often appear as though they will fly in to you, only to turn away at the last second. You can hear the wings as they brush past and even the odd crunch of an insect they have caught for supper. Magic.

Friday I spent all day sorting and planning my trip to the Dauphine which will be at the beginning of June. Researched and found a flight with BMI direct from Manchester to Lyon. Other airlines such as BA and Air France had a transfer in their Lyon schedules, either at Heathrow or Paris, making the journey time inconveniently long. The BMI flight I?ve found is perfect, getting in to Lyon just a short time after 13:00 on the Tuesday of the race week. It means I can pick a hire car up and get to the finish of the second stage that finishes in Vienne. Having booked my flight it was a matter of booking a hire car with the airline link which happened to be Hertz. That booked, it was then a on to looking at the race route and booking accommodation around it. It always takes longer than you anticipate with having to study the race route, a Michelin road map and the hotel booking websites to maker my decisions.

Whilst on the sites it prompted me to try and fill in the missing nights I needed for the Tour de France. As you will know from previous blogs I?ve booked quite a way in to the Tour route already. I just needed to find the last few nights required before I leave the race after the Alpe d?Huez stage. Managed to sort out some accommodation on the Alpe during Friday afternoon?s efforts, so solving what had been one of my main problem areas.

After sitting all day I needed to go and stretch the legs and so took the car to Froggatt village and had a walk along the river there. It?s a nice walk. Spotted a couple of Mallard duck families with mum keeping a watchful eye over the youngsters as they darted about ahead of her. Also spotted a Mandarin duck family. It?s a Southeast Asian duck really which has escaped from private collections from around the country. They have now established themselves along our wood fringed lakes and rivers. It?s a small duck in comparison to a Mallard and the male is quite striking with it?s orange ?sail? like feathers that protrude from it?s back . Mum and dad were chaperoning two youngsters which were just tiny bundles of fluffy feathers.

The warm weather over the week has really brought out the butterflies and I spotted several Orange Tip about as I walked along the river banks. They are a smallish white butterfly and it?s only the male that has the orange tip to it?s fore-wings. The female has a grey tip to the fore-wings. I tried to get a picture but their busy flight never gave me chance.

Saturday and I was up early and out on the bike by 08:45. Once again I did my Matlock run but came back a slightly different way for a change by taking in Grindleford.

On the way out I got behind an Irish horse transporter that was going down to Chatsworth for the days cross country section of the three day event I mentioned earlier (Dressage on the Friday. Cross-country on the Saturday and Sunday finishes with the show jumping.)

Had a good run out to Matlock. Spotted half a dozen House Martins over the fishing pond at Grangemill. They were swooping in and taking a beak full of water to drink on the wing. Always great to see and too to hear their bubbling call.

By the time I got to Grindleford I had a 19.0mph average. I dropped down to the station café there to check whether some of the lads had stopped off for a cuppa but there was no one about so I headed straight back. Putting in the Grindleford climb rather than Froggatt adds a mile so I had 54 miles on the clock with an average of 18.5mph when I got back, the best I?ve done it in for a while.

Spent the afternoon doing some more accommodation booking finding I was spending far too much time dithering over which hotel I should book. Tried phoning a few hotels on La Toussuire for the final evenings stop over at the Dauphine. I used an old race manual to get the numbers of the hotels which had been used in the 2006 addition. Didn?t have much luck. They were either closed or ?Complet?, full. Will try again over the coming week.

By the time I finished doing things it was getting on in to the evening. Decided to take myself out up the Mayfield Valley once again. I?m glad I did as I spotted one the badgers up there as dusk was approaching. I?d heard this ripping of grass in the dip near the sett and then suddenly the distinctive black and white face appeared dragging dry, grassy bedding material up the bank. It disappeared rear first in to the sett entrance pulling in it?s fresh bedding as it did so. I?ve not seen a badger about there for a while. The sett had looked abandoned and I thought they may have been disturbed and had moved on. It was good to see some activity again. Spotted the resident little owls about too a little later.

I was up early on Sunday (06:30) and as I had my breakfast in the kitchen I spotted a hot air balloon taking off from Endcliffe Park just down the road from me. It climbed from behind the roof tops and quickly drifted in a SW direction and out of sight in to the beautifully clear blue morning sky. You could just hear the occasional roar of the burners topping up the hot air for the ascent. The balloon company quite often uses the park as a take off sight. It?s quite spectacular to see the enormous multi coloured canopy suddenly appear above the roof tops there.

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I set out for Lincoln at 07:30 and got to Clumber Park near Worksop to find the A57 closed just before the point where it joins the A1. Had to about turn and I found the route I take if I cycle out to Lincoln. It takes in Tuxford and brings you out on the A57 just before the toll bridge at Dunham-on-Trent.

Arrived in Lincoln a little later than I?d hoped. I parked up behind the cathedral and walked to the Yarborough Leisure centre to see the riders getting ready for the start there. Just before the off I started my walk back towards the cathedral and the market place to catch the first of the eleven ascents of Michelgate.

The Lincoln has for a long time been the best one-day race on the British calendar. I think Sunday was the 16th time I?ve seen it. One of the first times I photographed it was on another hot day back in 1992 when my mate John Charlesworth won. I?d didn?t know him at that point. It was a great win and remembered by two friends of mine, Bas & Geoff I see at the races (and on Sunday too) who said it was the best ride they have seen at Lincoln over the years. ?He was first up the climb every lap.? they said. It was a longer race back then with an extra two laps making the race distance just over 100 miles.

Sunday?s superb weather had brought out a good crowd giving a good atmosphere. There?s almost a continental feel to the event. There are always local clubs that ride out and they all meet up on the climb somewhere. I always see familiar faces in the crowd and is a chance to catch up on the news and views from year to year. Spoke to Steve Sefton and his family. The last time I?d seen Steve was on a mountain after a stage in the Tour de France two years ago. Saw my friend?s the Elliott?s from Warwickshire who are always at the top British races over the season. Had a word with Dave Marsh between one of the laps and then later when I found him with Adrian Timmis and Chris Walker and his son Joe. Chris, a past winner of the Lincoln in 1994, had ridden out on his motorbike with Joe to watch the racing.

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It was a good race with Russell Downing taking the win from brother Dean. Simon Richardson took a good third spot. Russell had always looked comfortable all day with plenty in the tank. For some though, the heat and the sapping climb of Michelgate had taken it?s toll earlier in the race. Even for those that finished it?s always interesting to see how the effort of the day had taken a grip, perhaps more so than at any of the other races. With contorted faces and hunched shoulders they roll to a stand still on the last bit of cobbles around the corner from the finish line. After all the presentations were over I got chance of getting a picture of Russell on the back of Chris Walker’s motorbike for a fun shot.

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Got home, ordered a Chinese and then set about sorting some pictures. Made a quick selection to send for the website before going in to more detail later. By the time I finished and had the pictures sending to the FTP site it was quite late. I had given myself a break of an hour near dusk to wander up Mayfield to see if I could spot the badger again. I was lucky and saw two badgers this time snuffling about by the sett entrance. Also saw two Noctule bats as well as a good number of Pipistrelle.

Well, that?s another week.

Andy

Andy Jones is Cycling Weekly’s resident photographer, and has covered pretty much every major cycle race there is, from downhill mountain biking to the Tour de France. You can see many of Andy’s photos in our online Gallery section.