Conor Dunne compared the Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic to Wacky Races after his late breakaway earned him victory in this year’s incident-packed edition.
It was the biggest win of the 24-year-old Irishman’s career as he burst away late on the final lap of the finishing circuit to win from former Welsh champion Griff Lewis (Madison Genesis).
Dunne’s team-mate Chris Lawless headed a sprint finish among the main peloton, which crossed the line around 20 seconds later, to help JLT Condor secure the team prize.
“It feels really good,” said Dunne, who finished 55th at the Tour de Normandie last month. “I’ve been working so hard for the last few months and done a lot of racing.
“There have been a few tough days and then suddenly it comes together.
“I really enjoyed the race. It gives it a different dimension with all the gravel sections, a bit like being back in Belgium.
“It was fun; a bit like the Wacky Races.”
There was good news for Melton-based team Metaltek Kuota Racing who had four riders among the finishers, including team captain Dan Fleeman who recorded his third top 10 finish at the Classic.
Team director Andy Swain said: “One of our sprinters crashed at Somerberg, but to have four riders finish is really pleasing.
“I think there were 36 riders left and about 10 per cent of them were ours so you have to be pleased with that.”
A two-man crash on the first lap of Rutland Water forced a 20-minute stoppage as riders set a frenetic early pace, touching 52kmph, as the leading UK teams aimed to put down a marker.
Both riders were taken to hospital for precautionary checks but later released.
A cat-and-mouse race followed around the lanes and farm tracks between Oakham and Melton as a string of small breakaways, mainly solo attacks, were gradually reeled in by the bunch.
A four-man attack looked to have made the decisive break after riders crossed the line in Melton for the first time and embarked on a lap of the finishing circuit towards Stapleford Park.
But the hard-working peloton did superbly to pull them back, allowing Dunne to break clear on Saxby Road, followed closely home by Lewis.
Race director Colin Clews said: “Once again the guys put on everything possible to show bike racing at its best. It was so unpredictable: no-one could have foretold the winner.
“The race was elastic. On the finishing circuit for the first time, we had four riders away and no-one would have thought the bunch could have clawed them back, but they did.
“The reaction on social media today was absolutely fantastic and now we’re looking forward to it going on TV and a wider audience seeing what this race is all about.
“It puts Melton on the map, but we want to continue to improve the event and really need extra sponsors to come in and help us do that.”
Former British road race champion Kristian House (One Pro) was the day’s top climber and picked up the King of the Bergs prize.
Rory Townsend (Pedal Heaven), who led the race alone going over Somerberg for the first time, won 10 stone of beer from Oakham brewers Grainstore as first rider passing under the archway on the second passage of Owston.