Previews Races

2019 Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic: preview

Preview of the UK's 'Belgian' classic

The only one-day UCI race in the UK open to British Continental and elite teams, the race dubbed Britain’s ‘Belgian classic’ takes place this Sunday 28 April. Here’s a preview of race, including insight and analysis by our British Conti Insider.

Rutland may well be the UK’s smallest county, but it gives name to the UK’s hardest-hitting race, and I for one will be watching with baited breath. The UK just needs more races like this

British Conti Insider
Photo: Andrew Peat / espoirs.world

What is it?

A UCI 1.2 race, the Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic is now in its 15th year. Taking place on roads and farm tracks across the undulating landscape of Rutland and East Leicestershire, it is one of the most spectator-friendly races on the UK calendar. It features the best of Britain’s smaller teams – Continental and elite – as well as a host of foreign-based teams.

Previous winners include Malcolm Elliot (at the age of 45), Conor Dunne and Zak Dempster, as well as Ian Wilkinson, the only man to have won the race twice. Two previous winners line-up for the race again – Gabriel Cullaigh (Team Wiggins Le Col) and Tom Moses (Madison Genesis) – and both will no doubt be hoping Wilkinson as two-time winners.

The race is part of the newly formed LCT Euro Cup race series and is also one of the Tour of Britain qualification races.

Click here for the final start list.

The route

Nearly 200km long, the race starts in Oakham. Two high-speed laps of Rutland Water have this year been replaced by a winding route through Burley-on-the-Hill, Ashwell and Teigh to Wymondham. Four laps of varying length around Wymondham then follow, including two ascents of Butt Lane.

No.NameRace DistanceLengthSeverity
11Barleyberg60.4 kms1100 m*****
10Newbold87.0 kms1100 m**
9Manorberg  (Pass 1)97.5 kms700 m****
8Manorberg (Pass 2)120.0 kms700 m****
7Somerberg133.7 kms2200 m*****
6Manorberg (Reverse)136.7kms1800 m****
5Newbold Manor147.5 kms1200 m**
4Somerberg (Reverse)157.2 kms2200 m*****
3StaplePark (Pass 1)172.6 kms2100 m****
2Sawgate183.7 kms500 m*****
1StaplePark (Pass 2)189.6 kms2100 m****

The race heads back to Oakham and then travels west to take in 11 special sectors including Barleyberg, ‘Somerberg’, ‘StaplePark’ and ‘Sawgate’, before finishing in Melton.

Rutland is tough. Make no bones about it. There are no soft winners, and to “get round” is an accomplishment in itself

British Conti Insider

The British Conti Insider’s view

Our ‘British Conti Insider’ is an active DS with experience in the UK and abroad.

It may seem odd to preview a race beginning with a rant, but here goes: The 2019 Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic is the only single-day UCI standard 1.2 in the UK. Let that sink in for a moment. 

Race organiser, Colin Clews has once again come up trumps and is to be commended for his commitment to staging a UCI level event. With the sad loss (demotion) of the Beaumont Trophy and the Velothon, British racing is left with a solitary event for continental and club teams to compete in. This is to the detriment of racing standards and the opportunity for riders in smaller teams to shine on a higher stage in their own country. British Cycling needs to address this situation in conjunction with race organisers, and riders and team-managers alike need to stress the importance of these races, be they single day 1.2 or 1.1 events, or even a 2.2 stage-race. There, I’ve said it. Rant over.

Rutland is tough. Make no bones about it. There are no soft winners, and to “get round” is an accomplishment in itself. Much is made of the off-road sectors, but it is the racing in between these sectors that creates a unique race on the British calendar. The roads twist and turn, duck and dive; some are wide, some are narrow; there are sheltered lanes, there are exposed roadways. There are hills, and in the 2019 edition there is an early “kermesse/criterium” around the village of Wymondham which will be, in the words of Matt Stephens: fascinating.

Much is made of ‘luck’ in this race, but I argue that the strongest riders will make their own luck

British Conti Insider

Again, much is made of ‘luck’ in this race, but I argue that the strongest riders will make their own luck. Yes, the odds of a puncture or mechanical are raised by charging through farmland and unmade roads, but if a team/rider has made the right choice in equipment, done a thorough recce, have prepared helpers at sectors, and ultimately has the form to be at or near the front to be able to pick the line, then these odds are lowered, often negated. Punctures and mechanicals can occur in any race.

The standard of the field is very high; Rally (Pro Conti) bring a strong squad, and besides our domestic conti teams, squads from Holland, Spain, and Germany will undoubtedly field a strong selection. Elite teams from Ireland, Belgium, France and a national selection from Latvia also feature, as do domestic club teams and a regional selection. Expect a kaleidoscope of colour jersey-wise, as by reducing some teams to four riders has allowed for extra teams to be represented. Some may argue this is unfair as the stronger teams have not just a numerical advantage, but also an advantage in convoy draw (UCI teams in the first draw, e.g. cars 1-12, then non-UCI teams 13-30) but in this case I think it’s a proactive move to give more exposure to the smaller teams.

Harry Tanfield (Canyon Eisberg) leads the bunch in the 2018 race
Photo: Hugh McManus / Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes

Who to back? Who will win? Connor Swift, Gabz Cullaigh, Tom Pidcock, Tom Moses, Rob Scott, Koos Kors (3rdlast year), Scott Thwaites, Rory Townsend…? It is quite possibly the most difficult race to predict, and until the final startlist is released, and the weather declares itself, I’d not put myself on the line. But don’t just look at the bigger teams as 2017 winner Dan Fleeman proved. The small Metaltek team produced the ride of the day despite not having been thought of as a threat.

In this 15th edition, look as always for smaller teams to go for an early move, get some glory and coverage, however, the bigger teams will be happy to put a solo rider in a move, then sit back. There are some hidden gems in the peloton: a rejuvenated Russ Downing, Alex Luhrs, Adam Lewis, Steve Lampier, to say nothing of the overseas-based riders. And spare a thought for the event’s oldest ever competitor Colin Sturgess, who at 50 has forsaken the team-car for the bike.

Rutland may well be the UK’s smallest county, but it gives name to the UK’s hardest-hitting race, and I for one will be watching with baited breath. The UK just needs more races like this.

Timings

Official start: 11.00. Expected finish: 15.40

Weather

Rain is forecast the day before the race, which could add mud into the mix. But the day itself is due to be dry with temperatures up to 13 degrees.

TV

There will be no TV coverage of the race this year, alas, although the organiser hopes video highlights will be available at some point.

Feature photo: Conor Dunne (JLT Condor) wins the 2016 edition of the race
Photo: Andrew Peat / espies.world

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