TORRENTIAL rain and high winds battered riders during the eighth Oakham-Melton International CiCLE Classic decimating the field on Sunday.
Only 22 of the 155 riders to begin the race beat the conditions on a day when the 114km route was altered due to flooding making some stretches impassable.
Oakham’s Ryan Henry, the lone Rutland-based rider in the race, said he had never experienced such tough racing conditions.
“I knew it would be bad but I never expected that,” he said. “It was insane.
“The pace was high but the weather played a big part. I don’t think I have ever raced in anything like that. I bailed out after the laps of Rutland Water.”
“It was freezing cold and there was so much surface water. It was hard just trying to keep warm.
“People were nervous, people did not know whether to brake or not, and there were a lot more punctures because water drags stones to the surface.”
Henry, a category 2 rider, was up against category 1 and the top ranking elite riders from professional teams and added: “I think the average speed was slower but the professional teams set a stunning pace. Right from the start they hammered it.”
But despite Sunday’s horrific riding conditions the 33-year-old said: “It’s a great event and it’s important that people started it. There are so many teams who have put a lot of money into coming to the race. There’s a lot of camaraderie between riders and it would take sheet ice or snow to stop the races.”
The winner on Sunday was France’s Alexander Blain, riding for Britain’s Endura Racing Team, who became the first ever rider to win on his own, riding solo to the finish line almost two minutes clear of his nearest challenger in the Mountivation sponsored race.
Racing back through Oakham after two laps of Rutland Water, Pete Williams of the Node-4 Racing Team took the Oakham Wines sponsored Hot Spot sprint as part of a 23-man group that had opened up a lead of nearly half a minute.
Chasing groups formed and reformed before climbing Cold Overton hill for a hilly chase through country roads where the remaining racers fought to control their bikes on the muddy, rutted and partly flooded roads.
As the race approached Burrough-on-the-Hill for the last time on form Blain took his chance and jumped clear on the climb, and he continued to extend his lead before the final run in to Melton.
The East Midlands ‘High Flyer’ Kings of the Hill’s competition was won by second placed Jamie Sparling of Raleigh, while Endura racing, the only team to finish with three riders took the Melton Building Society team award.
Race director Colin Clews said: “For many years we have wondered just what the race would be like in bad weather but not in our widest dreams could we have ever imagined that we would ever face such extreme conditions.
“Everyone involved in the race deserves a gold medal for their efforts, at a race which will be talked about for many years to come. ”
The race was sponsored by Mountivation, Dolmio with support from Tim Norton Motors, Dare2bclothing, Duvel Beer, Newstyle Design and Print, Rouleur magazine, and Skoda.
l RYAN Henry is now focusing on breaking into the top 10 of the national cross country mountain bike series, in which he stands 13th after the opening two rounds of the five race series.