The 12th edition of the Rutland to Melton CiCLE Classic is shaping up to be one of the most competitive races in its history.
The elite, UCI 1.2 category race is modelled on the Belgian classics, in particular the character of the Tour of Flanders, and as such is raced on rough small roads over 184 km.
The race provides one of the only opportunities for British riders to test themselves against foreign competition on home soil and in the past has attracted big names including 26 time Tour de France stage winner Mark Cavendish, current World Road Champion Peter Sagan, Ed Clancy and Eurosport commentator, Magnus Backstedt.
The race starts in Oakham at 11am and finishes in Melton at approximately 3.30pm. It takes a meandering route across country with the now legendary off-road section known as the Somerberg and the newly included Cuckoo Hill.
With 33 teams now confirmed to take the start on Sunday, with several new teams amongst those named from within Britain and continental Europe taking part for the first time, the openness of the race suggests that the outcome will be hard fought by all involved.
Race director Colin Clews said: “This year we have again left most of the course unchanged, although we have inserted one further passage of the farm yard section at Owston into the course, which coming immediately after the first passage of ‘Somerberg,’ could become a newly created defining moment in the race.
“Anyone losing time at that stage may find themselves behind for the remainder of the day, and their race will be over.”
Over recent weeks several teams have been honing their form and skills in racing in Europe and beyond with top performances achieved by several notable riders, not the least Britain’s newest World Champion Jonathan Dibben of the Team Wiggins squad who only two weeks ago narrowly finished a very close second in the prestigious Under 23s Ronde van Vlaanderen in Belgium.
At the same time the Christina Watches team, competing in the Tour of Morocco took the overall race victory via Stefan Schumacher, who with a win in the Amstel Gold race to his name some years ago, already is expected to be a marked man at the CiCLE Classic.
Both riders lead their respective teams in Oakham on Sunday.
In addition to this, with Britain’s newest top flight team, One Pro Cycling, formed by ex-England cricketer Matt Prior, will be at the race riding in Britain for the first time this year. They competed at the Classic last year and will no doubt be a force to be reckoned with in 2016, and wishing to show the experience and form from racing at a higher level over the early part of this season.
As ever there will be much the teams to race for, with Oakham Wines once again offering the first incentive by their sponsorship of the Hot spot sprint award as the race passes back through Oakham after its two laps of Rutland Water. Shortly followed by the initial ascent of Cold Overton Hill, the first of six climbs sponsored by the Brook Hotels group during the race.
Then at 107kms into the race at Owston village the first rider past the specially erected archway there will win his weight in beer, courtesy of the Grainstore Brewery in Oakham.
If that was not enough, as the expected much reduced pack of riders left from the near 200 starters, enters Melton for the first time, the first rider to pass the line with just 1 kms remaining will know that they have a special pork pie to savour after the finish, courtesy once again of Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe .
Last year’s race was won by Australian Steele von Hoff, then riding for NFTO, and now riding this year for One Pro Cycling. Currently it is unconfirmed as to whether he will be part of the One Pro Team this year, but it is certain that at least three past winners will line up in Oakham a week on Sunday.
The only double winner of the CiCLE Classic, evergreen Ian Wilkinson rides again, this time in Pedal Heaven colours, whilst 2014 winner Tom Moses returns with his JLT-Condor team, and Alex Blain, winner of the rain sodden 2012 race, which is still talked about by many, returns as part of a revamped Madison –Genesis squad.
With post race TV coverage to look forward to for the first time the race goes from strength to strength. Channel 4 will broadcast a one-hour highlights programme on Saturday, May 7 before releasing footage of the race to international satellite channels.
On Sunday a Junior men’s race for riders between the ages of 17-18 will take place before the main event.
The Junior race, which is the third round of the National Junior Road Race Series, is 87km and will start in Oakham at 9:10am, before heading out to Market Overton and Teigh The current champion is Nathan Draper.
Amateur riders looking to get a taste of the Classic will be able to ride the Dare2b Rutland CiCLE Tour which takes place on Saturday.
It allows all comers to sample and experience the delights of cycling in the beautiful countryside of east Leicestershire and Rutland, over either 20 miles, 58 miles, 79 miles or a 105 miles course.
More than 1,500 participant are expected to take part in the CiCLE Tour over varying distances to suit everyone’s abilities and ambitions.
This year will also see the first running of a Women’s CiCLE Classic event planned for July 17 over a similar course after a new sponsor came on board following the organisers’ Crowdfunding bid to pay for television coverage. The race has already attracted a lot of interest from women racers throughout Britain.
Primary sponsors for the Men’s Cicle Classic are Dare2b, the Giant Store (Rutland Water) and Schwalbe Tyres (UK).